Brown’s Plan Would Ensure Liquid Nicotine Packages Utilize Child-Proofing Technology


CLEVELAND, OH—With a 300 percent increase in accidental poisonings due to liquid nicotine in 2013 alone, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced a plan today to protect children from accidental poisonings and death from liquid nicotine. Marketed with flavors appealing to children like “Cotton Candy,” “Fruity Loops,” and “Gummi Bear,” small containers of liquid nicotine—used for electronic cigarettes (e-cigs)—contain enough nicotine to kill four small children. While children are protected from bleach, aspirin, and mouthwash with child-proof packaging, liquid nicotine packages are not required to be child resistant.

“Big Tobacco shamelessly markets e-cigarettes and their components, like liquid nicotine, to children,” Brown said. “This marketing persists despite the fact that one small liquid nicotine bottle could kill four small children. We must take every action we can to protect our children before one of them dies from accidental poisoning. It’s simple. If we childproof bleach, toothpaste, and aspirin, we should childproof toxic liquid nicotine as well.”

Nicotine is a powerful stimulant that is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a variety of flavors, colors, and other chemicals to create liquid nicotine, which is then loaded into electronic cigarettes to be vaporized and inhaled by the user. Liquid nicotine is toxic if ingested or even absorbed through skin in large amounts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some small (15 mL) bottles of liquid nicotine contain as much as 540 mg of nicotine. At the estimated lethal dose range of nicotine, AAP notes that this size bottle contains enough nicotine to kill four small children. And even a liquid splashed on a child’s skin can make the child very ill.

Coinciding with the rapid rise in the use of e-cigarettes, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that local poison control centers had already received 1,571 calls between January 1 and May 31 of this year related to liquid nicotine exposure. In fact, according to a recent report in The New York Times, accidental liquid nicotine poisonings increased by 300 percent between 2012 and 2013. According to some experts who study nicotine exposure, it’s only a matter of time before an accidental nicotine exposure results in death.

Speaking from the emergency department of University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center, Brown announced that he is cosponsoring the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act. The legislation gives the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) authority and direction to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine products within one year of passage. The CPSC already requires child-resistant packaging for many household products, including over-the-counter medicines and cleaning agents, which can cause serious injury or death to children.

Joining Brown to call for immediate action was Dr. Lolita McDavid, the Medical Director of Child Advocacy at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital; and Henry Spiller, the Director of the Central Ohio Poison Center for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 

Brown continues to fight Big Tobacco’s attempts to replace the 480,000 customers it loses to tobacco related deaths a year. In April 2014, Brown and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) met with Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to urge the agency to do everything in its power to expand its oversight of Big Tobacco in order to protect consumers from the dangers of e-cigs and ensure they aren’t being marketed to children.

Shortly after their meeting, the FDA announced that it was releasing “deeming regulations” over e-cigs and other tobacco products. The new regulations would ban the sale of e-cigs to Americans under 18, and would require that people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states. However, final regulations could take a year to implement. And the FDA’s proposal still wouldn’t ban ads on the television and radio, or disallow the use of fruit flavors and other flavors that appeal to kids. Brown therefore continues to urge the Administration to strengthen and expedite its regulations over e-cigs and their components in order to protect children and make Ohioans healthier.