Poison control centers see spike in e-cigarette calls

Poison control centers nationally have seen a 161 percent increase in calls from people with concerns over e-cigarettes.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes are drug-device products designed to deliver nicotine to a user in the form of a vapor.

The process of smoking an e-cigarette, often known as vaping, is typically done by using a battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge containing nicotine and an atomizer that uses heat to convert the contents of the cartridge into a vapor -- which is then inhaled by the user.

For smokers trying to kick the habit, e-cigarettes often appear to provide a way to wean off cigarettes while avoiding health risks like cancer.

“More than half of the calls we have received were concerning children,” said Ashley Webb, board-certified toxicologist and director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center.

“Kids are picking up the liquid cartridge when cartridges are left accessible or when an adult is changing the cartridge,” Webb told kyforward.com. “They’re also getting a hold of the e-cigarette and taking it apart to expose the liquid. They then either ingest the liquid or get it onto their skin. Even on the skin, the nicotine is absorbed and can create adverse side effects.”

Researchers found that three in 10 e-cigarettes contain levels of formaldehyde and acrolein -- known carcinogens -- that are nearly equal to levels found in standard cigarettes.

Scientists with the FDA and American Cancer Society say there is currently no scientific evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes.

In initial lab tests, the FDA found detectable levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze.

The American Cancer Society says e-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA for use to quit smoking. Experts add that no evidence exists to show they even help people quit smoking.