E Cig Accidents Cause Alarm in Australia
Accidents involving E cigarettes in Australia have opened up a new debate on the safety of e cigs. Higher standards are welcome to stop unscrupulous e liquid and e cigarette suppliers from cutting corners.
Unintentional poisonings have increased significantly in Australia in the previous five years, with many serious cases impacting children.
The amount of calls to the four Poison Information centres in Australia went from 2 to 54 between 2009 and 2013.
This comes on the back of the World Health Organisation calling for stricter regulations on the marketing of electronic cigarettes.
There was an incident where a toddler ingested a complete nicotine capsule, and another where a nursing home patient was found sucking on a flavoured E liquid cartridge.
This has caused health authorities in Australia to expand on their concerns about problems concerning the apparatus of electronic cigarettes
Nicotine is classified by law as a dangerous toxin in Australia. States and territories each have responsibility for controlling dangerous toxins, and in all states and territories, the retail sale of nicotine is an offence unless a license has been issued by the applicable state or territory authority. In some states purchasing, possessing or using nicotine without a license is an offence. In many jurisdictions there are similar controls on the production (including mixing), storage, labelling and packaging and other facets of dangerous toxins
Queensland Poisons Information Centre supervisor Carol Wylie has been studying the tendency.
"It was becoming clear that, especially last year, we were getting more calls about electronic cigarettes," she said.
"Presumably that means that e cigarettes are becoming more popular."
Ms Wylie has said that toxins specialists were worried about calls regarding toddlers ingesting nicotine cartridges from e cigarettes, and other cases of accidental ingestion.
A reasonable dose of nicotine is hazardous to a 13kg toddler.
"Kids are rather sensitive to nicotine," Ms Wylie said.
"It's possible for a toddler to get a fairly big dose of nicotine from just one exposure."
Ms Wylie said there has been children hospitalised with major symptoms and she was concerned the cartridges were readily accessible to babies.
"There is no safety cover, for example. Most of the calls that we have had have been about children biting into the cartridges or getting the liquid from them.
"With any toxin there is a possibility for fatality, but we have not had any with e cigarettes as of yet."
The Western Australia Poisons Information Centre said it was worried about pure (99%) e liquid refills accessible on the web with containers ranging from six millilitres to one litre.
"One taste would be a poisonous dose for a toddler," a spokesman for the centre said.
Unintentional e cigarette poisonings are low compared to conventional cigarettes, yet the apparatus have got health officials concerned, even for adults.
Cartridges purchased online have been discovered with undisclosed parts and dangerous amounts of nicotine.
"We also have noted that we've been getting calls about individuals that use them by choice that might have side effects that they are calling us and asking about, such as headache, tremors, or that they are not feeling very well," Ms Wylie said.
"Some people have got some of the vaping fume in their eyes or occasionally direct exposure to their eyes. Some of the kids have had symptoms from the vapour as well as actually ingesting it.
"We have had a few patients that have had the liquid spill directly onto their skin and occasionally that has caused a small amount of irritation."
While the apparatus don't have the carcinogens of tobacco smoke, the jury is still out on whether they are healthy in the long term.
While Ms Wylie said there have been no calls involving e cigarettes without nicotine, there was no evidence they were safe.
A Queensland Health spokesman said electronic cigarettes in Australia haven't been tested for security or quality.
"They could deliver treacherous doses, and include unknown hazardous substances as they're frequently tagged wrong and may not be packaged safely," the spokesman said.
Lawmakers are also grappling with the standing of e cigarettes. Laws change from state to state on the sale of smoke-like products without nicotine.
Nationwide, it's prohibited to sell nicotine cigarettes, but legal to import three months' supply for personal use.
The business says the law must catch up so the apparatus can be correctly controlled.
Dr Stephen Jenkins from Nicoventures, a firm created by British American Tobacco that is working to get regulatory approval for e cigarettes, said the laws haven't kept pace with technology.
"These laws were composed at a time when electronic cigarettes weren't on the market," Dr Jenkins said.
"People are purchasing these items online, from many sources and we do not understand the quality managements that these products are being made under," Dr Jenkins said.
"It is really important we get standards set up and standards in place shortly."
For Ms Wylie the response was clear: "If have e cigarettes, we want them to be safe."
Nicotine is a dangerous substance, as is many other household products such as bleach or weed killer, and we at Smokshop welcome safety caps, warning's and tactile stickers on E liquid. The important thing is we don’t see this as an attack on electronic cigarettes themselves but as an important step in raising safety on all e cig products. The onus is not only on the buyer, but also on the seller, so we welcome any safety measures that can be introduced to protect the health of vapers worldwide.
CHIP Safety measures should come as standard on all bottles that are sold in the UK. In regards to safety of the product inside, suppliers of liquids should keep high standards. We welcome regulation on eliquid, but not if it becomes beyond financial reach. A simple approach of 'what's in there should be in there' this should be sufficient through regular checks, along with lot numbers to track products moving within the EU.
Author: Kevin Ewbank
Avid vaper & co-founder of SmokShop