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Rise of e-cigarettes alarms poison control experts

Mike Mozart

Central New York emergency medical technicians have increasingly been on the lookout for liquid nicotine overdoses.  

As the use of smokeless e-cigarettes continues to grow, more and more liquid nicotine is ending up in the homes of Americans. And it’s not safe, says Upstate Medical University toxicologist Nicholas Nacca.

“This is one of the most potent poisons in American homes now,” said Nacca.

In fact, an unattended bottle of liquid nicotine led to the death of a toddler in upstate New York last year. Nacca says a drop of the often fruit-flavored nicotine can make an adult very sick, if swallowed, and it takes less to sicken or kill a young child.  

Nacca says adults continue to buy large amounts of liquid nicotine, so they can more cheaply make their own nicotine cartridges for use in e-cigarettes.

“It disturbs me that you can go online and buy 100 percent nicotine, which has a gram per milliliter, and two milligrams is enough to get somebody sick."

That amounts to a drop of the liquid.  

Late last year, New York state banned the sale of liquid nicotine to minors, and has required that all packaging be made childproof, after the number of calls of nicotine overdoses to poison control centers jumped dramatically. 

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.