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Liquid in e-cigarettes resulting in more calls to upstate poison control center

Joseph Morris

Poisonings from the liquid that is used in electronic cigarettes is on the rise in New York state. They come in flavors like bubble gum, mint chip and grape, but only one swallow of liquid nicotine can make a child very, very ill, according to Michelle Caliva, head of the Upstate New York Poison Center.

"E-cigarettes contain nicotine, and nicotine is toxic to children," Caliva said. "Whether it’s in the e-cigarette or a cigarette. If they ingest enough of it, they’re going to get sick."

Caliva says a small child taking one swallow of the liquid nicotine will cause massive vomiting.

“It warrants an emergency room visit if enough is ingested," Caliva explained. "If you have a child who’s vomited or consumed enough of it, it warrants an emergency room visit. Kids can get very sick from it.”

She says it’s mostly children tasting the vials of flavored nicotine used in the cigarettes that’s causing the problem.

"At least with cigarette products, there’s a warning," Caliva said. "We know it’s potentially dangerous. With these, there’s no warning and there’s no safety mechanism to keep a child from getting into it. Easy to get into, accessible.”

All this adds up to more calls to the poison control centers.

“We had 20 calls in 2013, and 27 in 2014 to date," Caliva said. "So clearly we still have six months left, so it’s a significant rise.”

Caliva supports proposals by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) to require child safety caps and warning labels on e-cigarette liquid containers.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.