CDC Hypes 'Dramatic Increase' in Nicotine-Guzzling Children


Last week I faulted The New York Times for hyping the threat that e-cigarette fluid poses to children, a threat that pales in comparison with those posed by many common household products. Business reporter Matt Richtel warned that  "reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring," citing a "300 percent" rise between 2012 and 2013. Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outdoes Richtel, highlighting a "dramatic increase" of 21,400 percent:

The number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014…

More than half (51.1 percent) of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children 5 years and under, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older….

"This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes—the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue. E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children."

As the reference to "another red flag" makes clear, Frieden is not alerting us to an emerging threat so much as seeking to sully a product he dislikes for reasons that have very little to do with public health. He relies on the same trick as Richtel: When you start with a small number, increases that are small in absolute terms look huge in percentage terms. It is hardly surprising that a new, increasingly popular product that is potentially hazardous to children would generate scary-looking trends like these.

The total number of calls to poison control centers related to e-cigarettes during the 42-month period covered by the CDC study was 2,405, or 57 per month. These cases were not necessarily serious enough to require medical attention. The study says "the most common adverse health effects in e-cigarette exposure calls were vomiting, nausea, and eye irritation." According to the Times, about a quarter of such calls lead to hospital visits.

Poisoning reports involving e-cigarette fluid are still a tiny fraction of poisoning reports involving products the CDC is not warning us about, such as analgesics, cosmetics, cleaning fluids, anthistamines, pesticides, vitamins, and plants, all of which generate thousands of calls to poison control centers each month. In all these cases, the solution to preventing the poisoning of little children is the same: keep little children away from poison. 

When it comes to adults, caution in handling e-cigarette fluid, which can be absorbed through the skin or eyes, seems appropriate, although not always. According to the Times, the only fatality caused by e-cigarette fluid so far was a suicide by a man who injected it.

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  1. As far as I’m concerned, the CDC lost all credibility back when it failed to treat the walker outbreak in Atlanta.

      1. You’ve some lip today, chinaman!

    1. And NASA scientists now think wealth redistribution will mitigate global warming.

      I’m coaching a little league baseball team this spring. I tell the kids to play their position. If the ball is hit to left field the first baseman should not chase after it.

      1. They still have assigned positions? I’m surprised it’s not bp for one team while the other kids get to do whatever they want in the field at this point.

        1. They still have assigned positions?

          Yes, but you are supposed to rotate the kids so they all get a taste of fielding each position. That’s OK for this age, with one exception:

          The kids who are good athletes will be ahead of the pitch and pull the ball right, toward third base. It is not a good idea to put a kid who can’t put a glove between the ball and his face at 3rd base.

          1. I remember when my kid jumped from the fun league to the competitive league.

            In the fun league any ball hit to third was at least a single (usually a double) because almost no kid could throw from third to first. And if one could, the odds of the first baseman catching it were astronomical (it was a long year of watching games).

            The first time he was pitching in the competitive league and a kid hit to third and they got an out, shocked the crap out of him. He became a much better pitcher when he realized he didn’t have to strike every batter out and could rely on fielders to get him outs.

    2. Some blame the NZA. They got a law passed banning the CDC from spending money on research pushing political agendas. The CDC, being the petulant children they are, decided to stop all research on the subject of zombies.

      Others blame the ASPCZ and PETZ for their constant complaining about inhumane treatment of zombies, even when the latter group had pits full of them that it regularly killed.

  2. All of the incidents could have been prevented with just a few simple, inexpensive Mr. Yuck stickers.

  3. Keep your bourgoise “facts” to yourself, Sollum! We’ve got a narrative to push here! /asshat nanny statist

    1. Sullum – rhymes with Gollum! Almost…

      1. We forgot the taste of….freedom.


  5. Kids drinking e-cigarette fluid! Dogs eating marijuana! WILL THESE HORRORS EVER END?!

    1. e-cig fluid (unlike any preparation of marijuana) is actually dangerously toxic. Nicotine is some poisonous shit in doses not all that much higher than you get from smoking.

      That said, as with many other common household chemicals that aren’t really regulated at all, you don’t leave it around where young children can get their hands on it.

      1. Also, e-cigarette fluid wouldn’t even be so much of a thing if the nannies hadn’t been busy demonizing regular old cigarettes and making them more expensive and harder to use for the last ten years.

      2. So you are telling me I shouldn’t teach kids to pour a container each of ammonia and bleach in the toilet?

  6. The human condition is fatal. Ever has it been so.

    1. Why do you hate the childrunz?

    2. It won’t be long before the state of your brain will uploaded to a Google server and then downloaded to a mannequin in Episiarch’s woodshed.

  7. Yes, nicotine guzzling is dangerous but I am more worried about nicotine butt-chugging.

  8. Did they get Spagett to advertise for a new way to enjoy this product?


  9. Dr. Ooog of the CCDC (Center Cave of Disease Control) warned that screams caused by fire had skyrocketed 21,400% over the last three moons.

    Fire Danger Denier, Snook, said that even with such an increase the screams caused by mastodon trampling and cave bear maulings were still far bigger in absolute terms.

  10. This is one of those cases where industry self-regulation is the best case. THe companies that make e-cigarettes will make their products child-proof before the government steps in.

  11. Annnnd… here comes the bullshit. I see a trend here:

    1: Something new comes out on the market
    2: That something new contains a substance that people enjoy
    3: New things are scary OMG!
    4: Substances are scary OMG!
    5: Hype up the threat
    6: Falsify data, if you can, to back up your claims of how scary it is
    7: Get concerned soccer moms on the bandwagon

    1. Oh wait, I forgot “IF IT SAVES ONE CHILD’S LIFE!”

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