General Health & Wellness • Apr 10, 2014

E-cigarettes: NOT a safe alternative

We all worry about long-term danger from smoking, but nicotine can take the life of a child in minutes.

Smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health. We all know this. It increases risk of numerous potentially fatal health issues. No one wants their child to start smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on earth and quitting is extremely difficult even in the best of circumstances.

E--cigsE-cigarettes have been available for more than 10 years, but recently have increased greatly in popularity. With celebrity advertisements, bright colors, and flavors like bubble-gum, the target audience for these devices is pretty clear. Manufacturers of products such as these are in it for the money. Getting adolescents and teens addicted now means BIG bucks over a lifetime. Nicotine in an e-cigarette is just as, if not more, addictive then that received from a traditional tobacco product.

E-cigarettes do not necessarily contain all the toxic additives that tobacco products do; however, they are unregulated. This means, we actually have no idea what is in them. In addition nicotine itself is a harmful chemical known as a neurotoxin. Chronic use causes damage by, among other things, creating strain on the heart, damaging blood vessels throughout the body, and decreasing the body’s ability to respond to insulin contributing to type 2 diabetes.

Tragically, a high dose of nicotine interferes with the normal functioning of the brain, gut, heart and muscles. It can cause severe chest and abdominal pain, racing heart, vomiting, seizures, changes in blood pressure, and can even make someone stop breathing completely.

The increased availability of e-cigarette fluid poses a HUGE risk to children. The colorful, flavored liquid is a magnet for kids who will naturally drink it. Even playing with it can lead to rapid absorption through the skin. This rapid and concentrated exposure can and has led to hospitalizations and even death.

What to do?

  • Educate your children on the dangers of all tobacco and nicotine products starting at an early age. Even if you can’t quit yourself you can use your own experiences to help dissuade your child from introducing themselves to this very addictive chemical.
  • If you have one
    • Keep the device and its refills well out of the reach of your children at all times in the same way you would with any medication or poison
    • Don’t use it around your children
    • Focus on using it to quit smoking and remove it from the home as soon as possible
    • Be very careful when handling. Vials have been known to break. Do not get it on your skin.
    • If your child comes in contact with liquid nicotine, call 911 or your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. This includes any and all exposures
      • Inhalation
      • Ingestion (drinking)
      • Spilling it on the skin. For skin exposure wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes while calling

You can get additional support with quitting smoking with the “Freedom from Smoking: Smoking Cessation Program” at the Barnard Health and Cancer Information Center at Siteman Cancer Center.


  • Sandra

    I’m constantly embarrassed by the amount of bad information on this site by doctors.

    Here is the wikipedia on Nicotine:

    Nicotine has demonstrated *minor* addictive properties, most no physical but psychological. Again, minor.

    In high amounts, nicotine can be classified as a carcinogen. High amounts. A 2mg patch of piece of gum a day is going to be just fine. The amounts needed to approach this are likely in excess of 30mg/day for very extended periods of time.

    Nicotine has demonstrated positive effects on mood, memory and learning. Effects categorized similar to caffeine. Remember, caffeine in extraordinary high amounts is also dangerous. So is water in high amounts. Or pretty much anything.

    Bottom line: yes, educate your kids. But for the love of god, educate yourself. It is embarrassing that the doctors on this site are so misinformed.

  • Nicholas

    I completely agree with the need to carry out extra safety measures with vape/e-cigarette refills, especially preventing their access to children. That being said, it is very uneducated and unsupportive to those who choose to use e-cig/vape to continue to take this stance against them. Nicotine is a very well studied drug. I am a pharmacist. There is of course a lethal dose of nicotine, as there is with almost any substance, and yes, it can be achieved especially by a child who has gotten into the vape refills, but this is exclusive from the benefits of people who use products like these in opposition of smoking analog cigarettes. Although the clinical data for these products is yet to be established, it is premature to write them off as unsafe, but I do agree with you in the fact of the very real potential danger to children.