CDC reports half of e-cigarette-related poisonings were children under five

U.S. senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released the following statement on data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed a dramatic rise in calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes:

"The alarming increase in poisoning cases involving e-cigarettes should serve as a wake-up call to the American people that it is time for the FTC and the FDA to regulate these products to help prevent more tragedies. "I am particularly concerned that many e-cigarettes are packaged in bright colors and flavored to smell like candy or fruit, which puts children at higher risk of poisoning."

Using data collected from poison centers in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, the CDC found that calls to poison centers involving e-cigarettes have risen dramatically - from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, with a total of 2,405 calls regarding e-cigarette exposure in that timeframe.

The CDC found that while most calls involving e-cigarette liquid poisoning came from accidental ingestion of the e-cigarette or its liquid, about one-sixth of the calls related to someone inhaling these items, and exposure through the eye and the skin were also reported. 51.5 percent of these calls were for e-cigarette poisonings among young children under five years old.

In March, in response to a New York Times article Boxer joined six senators in once again calling on the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly to regulate the rapidly evolving market of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products.

Despite claims from some e-cigarette makers that they do not market their products to children, e-cigarette manufacturers have adopted marketing practices similar to those long used by the tobacco industry to market regular cigarettes to youth, including flavoring their products in candy or fruit flavors that appeal to children, and using marketing materials featuring cartoon characters reminiscent of those used to market traditional cigarettes to children in previous decades.

A previous CDC study found that e-cigarette experimentation doubled among middle and high school students between 2011 and 2012, with nearly two million youth trying the products in 2012.

In February, senator Boxer introduced the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act to prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens. The legislation is co-sponsored by Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives last week by representative Elizabeth Esty (D-CT).