Lawmakers Say Child's Death Brings Urgency To Liquid-Nicotine Regulation

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Last month, a one-year-old boy in Fort Plain, New York was found unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital where he later passed away, becoming the first child in the United States to die reportedly from liquid-nicotine poisoning.

That tragedy, and too many similar close calls, has prompted U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to reintroduce legislation they and a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues authored to child-proof liquid nicotine containers. Specifically, the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015 would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for any liquid nicotine sold to consumers. 

“There is a word for the toxic candy-flavored liquids found in electronic cigarettes: poison. Protecting our nation’s children from exposure to poison is basic common sense, especially when it can have dangerous and fatal consequences like liquid nicotine,” Durbin said.

“If we can prevent even one child’s death or keep one fewer child from falling ill, then we absolutely have a responsibility to do that,” said Nelson. 

Liquid nicotine is made for use in e-cigarettes, and is most often sold in concentrated form in easy-to-open vials bearing bright colors, enticing images and flavors that sound more like candy, such as Peppermint Patty, Frankenberry and Cotton Candy. 

Just one teaspoon of highly concentrated liquid nicotine could kill a small child, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and exposure could also result in vomiting or seizures.

 According to new data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, incidents involving electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine jumped by 156 percent from 2013 to 2014. Calls to poison control centers involving exposure to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine increased from 271 in 2011 to 3,957 in 2014. Most troublingly, more than half the calls involved a child under the age of six.

Nearly identical legislation filed last year was approved by the Senate’s Commerce Committee in September.  Bill sponsors tried to get the full Senate to approve the measure by unanimous consent, which allows for passage without a vote unless one senator objects.  One did – so the bill had to be refiled this year. 

The legislation, which is once again headed back to the Commerce Committee for initial approval, has already garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, where twelve additional members have signed on as co-sponsors: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Last year, the legislation also received the support of consumer and medical groups including: the American Academy of Otolaryngology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Respiratory Care, American Association of Poison Control Centers, American College of Cardiology, American College of Medical Toxicology, American College of Physicians, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Public Health Association, Arizona Consumers Council, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Boston Public Health Commission, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, Chicago Consumer Coalition, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Federation of the Southeast, Consumers Union, EverThrive Illinois, First Focus Campaign for Children, Kids in Danger, March of Dimes, Minnesota Department of Health, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Ohio Public Health Association, Oncology Nursing Society, Partnership for Prevention, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and Virginia Citizens Consumer Council.