As e-cigarettes (also called “vapes”) have become more popular, more children are being accidentally exposed to nicotine-containing e-liquids—which can cause injury and even death. If you’re an adult who vapes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants you to know that it’s important to keep these products away from kids and to be prepared in case of emergencies.
Nicotine, even in small amounts, can be dangerous to children if they touch or drink it. In fact, from January 2012 to April 2017, the National Poison Data System received 8,269 calls related to liquid nicotine exposure in children younger than six, mostly from drinking these products. E-liquids also can harm pets.
So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning adults about these risks and taking action to protect children.
Why E-Liquids Are Dangerous for Children
Containers for e-liquids (the liquid used in vape products) can seem tempting to children of all ages for many reasons. For example, some e-liquids may have labeling or advertising that misleads kids into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink—like a juice box, piece of candy, or cookie. But these products are not meant for children.
The FDA has evaluated data and science related to the risks of e-liquid exposure and found that young children can be severely hurt by drinking (also called “ingesting”) e-liquids. Harmful effects can include seizure, coma, respiratory arrest (which happens when a person stops breathing), and death from cardiac arrest (which happens when the heart stops pumping blood).
Follow Storage Tips for E-Liquids—and Teach Children to Avoid These Products
Remember that children are curious and put all sorts of things in their mouths. Even if you turn away for a few seconds, they can quickly get into things that could harm them.
You can help prevent accidental exposure to e-liquids by always putting your e-cigarettes and/or e-liquids up and away—and out of kids’ and pets’ reach and sight—every time you use them.
Also ask family members, house guests, and other visitors who vape to keep bags or coats that hold e-cigarettes or e-liquids up and away and out of reach and sight of children and pets.
For children old enough to understand, explain to them that these products can be dangerous and shouldn’t be touched. And tell kids that you or another adult are the only people who should handle these products.
Know the Poison Control Phone Number
To be prepared in case of an emergency, also add the Poison Control HELP number (1-800-222-1222) to your phone contacts.
Make Sure to Properly Handle E-Liquids
When you remove products from their (adult-only) storage locations, it’s important to handle them in a way that may help to prevent kids’ exposure to e-liquids.
- ALWAYS store e-liquids in their original containers, so others know exactly what they are. This will help children know to avoid these products.
- ALWAYS make sure product caps are locked when you’re not using them, and relock caps when you’re finished. If a bottle has a cap that turns, twist it until you cannot twist anymore.
- ALWAYS avoid contact with your skin and eyes when you use these products. E-liquid exposure can cause burning and irritation, among other problems. In case of accidental contact with skin or eyes, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
- ALWAYS clean up any spills or splashes immediately using soap and water.
- NEVER drink e-liquid, or allow anyone to drink it because the liquid nicotine can be poisonous. If a child accidentally drinks e-liquid, immediately call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. Also, call this number if you think your child has been exposed to these products—even if you’re not completely sure.
Report Safety Issues to the FDA
The FDA has regulatory authority over tobacco products—including e-cigarettes and other vaping products, cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah and pipe tobacco—as part of its mission to improve public health.
Know that the FDA has sent warning letters to companies that mislead kids with e-liquids that imitate children’s’ food products (such as juice boxes, candy or cookies. These warning letters advised companies that these misleading products are prohibited.
The FDA also is pursuing other steps to protect youth from the dangers of tobacco products, such as continuing to enforce regulations addressing youth access and exploring measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing, and addictive.
If you experience any unexpected health problems with an e-liquid or any other tobacco product, please report the issue to the FDA using the Safety Reporting Portal.
This article appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.