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A "Safer" Alternative to Smoking Causing Problems for Children

May 6, 2016

(KMEG TV Sioux City / Jaclyn Driscoll)

A so-called safer alternative to smoking is raising new concerns as calls to the Iowa Poison Control Center have nearly doubled in the past two years.

"One milliliter of this, which is basically just a sip for a child, they should go to the hospital for," says Tammy Noble, the education coordinator at the Iowa Poison Control Center.

Many of the calls involve children under the age of six ingesting the highly-concentrated liquid nicotine. Just a small amount of the liquid can cause serious damage or even death.

"With nicotine toxicity they can get really jittery, fast heartrate, high blood pressure, they can be pale, GI symptom like nausea vomiting," says Jenny Smith, a registered nurse at the Iowa Poison Control Center.

"It can do things like even cause seizures, so these kids can be very, very sick very, very quickly," says Noble.

Due to inviting flavors and scents like these, orange dreamsicle or grape, children mistake the brightly colored liquid for juice and most of the packaging is not child-proof.

Calls nearly doubled in Iowa from 2012 to 2014 reaching a high of 47 calls. There were 36 in 2015, and so far this year there have been eight. Exposure issues stem from swallowing the liquid nicotine, but also any contact with the eyes or skin can have serious consequences.

"The other thing about nicotine, is it is also absorbed through the skin and kids have thinner skin than what adults do, so definitely if you have a kids playing with the bottle or touching the bottle you want to wash their hands right away so they aren't absorbing it through their skin," says Noble.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed legislation requiring child-resistant packaging. Still, the Poison Control Center says everyone who uses the liquid should keep it out of reach for children.

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