ecig smoke

By Dale Petersen MD – Building  Health –

The electronic cigarette was invented in 2003 by Hon Lik, a 52 year old Chinese pharmacist, after his father died of lung cancer.  Electronic cigarettes were introduced in the United States and Europe in 2006 and have been steadily rising in popularity.  Sales in the US now total over $1.5 billion dollars annually and are expected to rise by 25 percent each year through 2018.

Several reasons are given for the rise in E-cigarette use.  One is the absence of the smell of tobacco smoke.  The vapor exhaled from an E-cigarette is either odorless or has a faint smell reminiscent of chewing gum or candy.  The cost of E-cigarette use is said to be half that of traditional cigarettes.  They are also promoted as being safer and socially acceptable.

While E-cigarettes do not contain many of the chemicals found in tobacco, they do contain nicotine, which is a poison.  The lethal dose of nicotine in adults is 50 to 60 milligrams, but the amount capable of killing a child is believed to be much less.  E-cigarettes are not disposable, but are refilled with liquid that is referred to as E-juice.  A child drinking a vial of the liquid could consume a potentially fatal amount of nicotine.

Non-fatal ingestions can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and/or difficulty breathing.  If any of these symptoms occur the possibility of nicotine poisoning should be considered if a child has been in a home or business where E-juice is available.

Nicotine poisonings are on the rise.  For example, the Minnesota Poison Control System reported a tenfold rise in nicotine poisonings in children between 2012 and 2013.  Fifty incidents were reported in 2013, compared to only five in 2012.  Many were in toddlers who had drunk E-juice thinking that it was a form of candy.  Discussing the rate of increase in E-juice poisonings Stacey Bangh, Clinical Supervisor at the Hennepin Regional Poison Center stated, It’s not a matter of if a child will be harmed by these products, but when.

Vials of E-juice are often brightly colored making them attractive to young children.  They also come in tantalizing flavors such as cherry, strawberry, vanilla, grape, and Tahitian punch.  They are even available in bubble gum, cotton candy, and cookies and cream.  Manufacturers are not required to supply the liquids in child-resistant packaging.

If you are an E-cigarette user it is important to store any liquids in a place that is not accessible to children.  If you don’t personally use E-cigarettes, be alert to their presence in the homes of friends or other places your child may visit.  Don’t take a chance on your child being poisoned by drinking what he or she believes to be a sweet treat. 

It’s also important to discuss the addictive nature of nicotine and the fact that little is known about the adverse health effects of using E-cigarettes with older children and teenagers.  Because of their attractive flavors and social acceptability half of teens and young adults say that they would try an E-cigarette if it was offered to them by one of their friends.  As with traditional cigarettes, the best and easiest time to stop is before one starts.

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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