By Xinran Cui Dhaliwal, MPH | December 17, 2018
Project Coordinator, ETR
If your holidays are anything like mine, then they are full of family reunions and house hopping. My daughter, one and a half, loves it! New places to check out, great food, hugs and kisses from all the doting adults.
I’m not a helicopter mom, so I don’t really sweat the non-baby proof houses, and there is no limit on sugar. If people want to treat her to some sweets and cookies, that’s fine. She eats well at home.
But I did sweat a little when I came across this statistic at work:
“As of November 30, 2018, poison control centers have managed 2,836 exposure cases about e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine in 2018.”
That’s from a report by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Let’s put it into context. The e-liquids used to refill e-cigarettes come in packages that look just like candy. The packaging appeals to children and youth. The increasing use of e-cigarettes by youth is so serious, many local governments are looking into bans on flavored tobacco products.
Residents of California are seeing ads like this, put out by the California Department of Public Health.
(Check out their other materials at the Flavors Hook Kids website.)
ETR’s team recently did a photoshoot of these candy-looking products. I heard they leak, they reek, and they aren’t exactly child proof.
Being around nicotine isn’t a new thing for me. I grew up around smokers. So in my head, all those memories of ashtrays and cigarettes lying around people’s houses just got an update. I’m substituting images of e-liquids and e-cigarettes.
The more I learn about e-cigarettes, the more questions pop into my brain.
I know my daughter can get her hands on a lollipop or candy bar without me noticing. Other kids do this too. What’s going to prevent them from getting hold of e-liquids? Toddlers put everything in their mouth! Naturally I’ve had the occasional, “What’s in your mouth?” interaction with my own daughter. So far, the worst thing was a bit of hand soap. The other day, I extracted a lint ball. Yuck. But these things won’t cause nausea, vomiting, possible seizures, or a trip to the Emergency Department.
Are all e-cigarette smokers responsible about keeping their stuff inaccessible to kids? I have friends who now do vaping checks with their babysitters, with instructions not to vape in front of the children and to keep all of the products well out of kids’ reach. Some teens hide their habits of vaping at home—parents aren’t even aware of their child’s habit. The teens themselves may not be aware of the potential risk if younger siblings find their “stash.”
Why isn’t packaging for e-liquids child-proofed? Medication packaging is. In California, so are recreational marijuana products.
Tide Pods look like candy. Bath bombs look like cupcakes. Can we please not have potentially deadly concentrated liquid nicotine dressing up as candy and juice?
If you’re ready to do something, take a look at the Flavors Hook Kids site. Much of the info is specific to California, but there are also resources that are relevant nationally. Adapt their template for a letter to a mayor, and make it work for your town. Share their social media images. Check out the materials at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Spend some time at the Surgeon General’s website on e-cigarettes and young people.
The tobacco industry has always promoted itself through deception. When we inform ourselves about e-cigarettes, and share that information with our children, our neighbors, our schools and communities, we fight back with truth.
May you have a healthy holiday season and a beautiful new year, full of fun and free of e-cigarette juice.
Xinran Cui Dhaliwal, MPH, is a Project Coordinator at ETR with a background in neuroscience and public health. She works with ETR’s Tobacco Education Clearinghouse project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.