Why, when every sub-prime shopping street has specialists in e-cigarettes, when my favoured pub invites me to “vape”, did I have to go to the New York Times for this horror story?
Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes
By MATT RICHTEL MARCH 23, 2014
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.
The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
I had assumed that UK or EU controls were adequate. The BMA, as of a January 2013 briefing, may not agree:
The legal status of e-cigarettes varies around the world. In some countries (eg Denmark, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia and Uruguay) the sale, import, or marketing of e-cigarettes is either banned, regulated in various ways, or the subject of health advisories by government health organisations. In others (eg New Zealand), e-cigarettes are regulated as medicines and can only be purchased in pharmacies. The UK has few restrictions on the sale and use of e-cigarettes.
In the UK, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, the Chemicals (Hazard Information & Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009, and by trading standards. There are no regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes as age restricted products, including their sale to children. The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which is tasked with ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are safe – is currently considering how e-cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should be regulated. The MHRA have stated that a final decision will be made in Spring 2013, and in the interim, have committed to work with the e-cigarette industry to develop a self-regulatory code.
So these things have been available to children — though as of the end of January this year:
Under-18s in England are to be banned from buying electronic cigarettes, the government has announced.
It would still seem the sale of e-cigarettes is unlicensed, so they are uncontrolled. A licensing system would mean they could be legally sold only in shops, not in car boot sales or markets. We will have to wait until 2016 when the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is expected to license e-cigarettes as a medicine in the UK.
All is not lost:
MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.
However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.
If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.
Controls are most certainly required, as we see from that NY Times piece:
Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Data System. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year’s number.
Examples come from across the country. Last month, a 2-year-old girl in Oklahoma City drank a small bottle of a parent’s nicotine liquid, started vomiting and was rushed to an emergency room.
That case and age group is considered typical. Of the 74 e-cigarette and nicotine poisoning cases called into Minnesota poison control in 2013, 29 involved children age 2 and under. In Oklahoma, all but two of the 25 cases in the first two months of this year involved children age 4 and under.
It didn’t take me long to find UK sources for liquid nicotine, including at least one, with “free standard shipping”, that invites me to:
ENTER A NEW DIMENSION OF VAPING WITH OUR PLATINUM AND TITANIUM ICE HIGH STRENGTH NICOTINE E-MIXING LIQUIDS. MADE EXCLUSIVELY … TO HELP YOU CREATE THE BEST TASTING LIQUIDS ON THE PLANET.
That’s the whole point.
You have colourful, aromatic substances around the house, and children will be tempted to try them:
“It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed,” said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a matter of when.”