The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned 13 e-cigarette liquid companies last week they need to change their packaging. Why? According to the National Poison Data System, incidents of kids under 12 swallowing vaping pods or ingesting the liquid are on the rise.
The 13 retailers were cited by the FTC and FDA for using labeling that looked almost exactly like kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candy, and cookies. This marketing is not only appealing to minors for their intended use — vaping — but to even younger children, who are mistaking the nicotine liquids for food items.
Liquid nicotine exposure is incredibly dangerous for children. Even in small quantities, nicotine ingestion could lead to respiratory failure, seizure, cardiac arrest, and even death. Most of the recent media attention has been on the vaping epidemic, which has resulted in the hospitalization of more than 800 people nationwide as of last week, but nicotine poisoning by ingestion in young children is also a growing problem. Calls to poison control centers about liquid nicotine ingestion have been on the rise: 1,913 reports of exposure already in 2019 alone.
“No child should be using any tobacco product, and no tobacco products should be marketed in a way that endangers kids — especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the official FTC/FDA statement. “Looking at these side-to-side comparisons is alarming.”
Said products include the One Mad Hit Juice Box, which looks like children’s apple juice boxes; Vape Heads Sour Smurf Sauce, which resembles War Heads candy; V’Nilla Cookies & Milk, which mimics Nilla Wafer and Golden Oreo cookies; Whip’d Strawberry, which looks like Reddi-Whip cream; and Twirly Pop, which “not only resembles a Unicorn Pop lollipop but is shipped with one,” the FDA said.
E-cigarettes have been marketed in recent years as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and are sold in a variety of fun flavors. But recent news suggests that they might not be as safe as companies like JUUL would like you to believe, and these flavors are appealing to more than just adults looking to quit smoking.
The FDA reported that companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and that they will continue to take action against those who market nicotine products to youth.
But parents can help a lot in keeping their children safe from nicotine ingestion, Romper recently reported. Hazardous products should be kept out of reach of little ones, and parents should be aware of the warning signs of nicotine poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and increased saliva. If you suspect that your child has invested liquid nicotine, contact your local poison control center immediately.