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More children are being poisoned by e-cigarette liquids, Ohio doctors warn

A woman using a vaping device exhales a puff of smoke in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Larger ingestions of vape liquids can make kids very ill, said Dr. Hannah Hays, the medical director of Central Ohio Poison Control.

Young children being poisoned by vapes and electronic cigarette liquids is on the rise — with exposures nearly tripling over the last six years, Ohio health officials said Thursday during a media conference.

The dangers of secondhand smoke ingestion are well known, but few parents and custodians may realize that leaving vapes in the proximity of children is even more dangerous, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

Kids can be impacted by "taking a puff if they've seen someone else use it or even from absoring it through their skin or eyes," Vanderhoff said.

More than 70% of reported poisonings are among children five and younger, he said. Data from this year signals another likely increase, with 328 exposures just through September.

Liquid in these devices can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the major psychoactive component in cannabis, cannabidiol, called CBD, which is also an active ingredient in cannabis, flavors or some combination of those chemicals.

Larger ingestions of vape liquids can make kids very ill, said Dr. Hannah Hays, the medical director of Central Ohio Poison Control.

"Children can easily access the products there. And we don't even want children to handle these products because derma or skin exposures can cause symptoms," Hays said.

She said children who handled a device experienced symptoms including, vomiting, fast heart rates, jitteriness and agitation, sometimes diarrhea and irritation of the mouth. Children can get sick from just touching a device, even one that is intact.

One child who had ingested a large amount of liquid from a vape pen who "developed loss of conciousnes, muscle jerking, repeated vomitting and had to be placed on a venilator or breathing machine," Hays said.

Hays recommended parents store liquid nicotine away and out of sight of children, ideally locked in a cabinet. She said parents should not store the devices in a purse because children can access them there.

Ohio's adult smoking rate has decreased by 28% over the last 10 years. According to state reports cited by Vanderhoff, vaping use among Ohio teens dropped substantially between 2019 and 2021. However, Ohio's smoking rate is still above the national average.

If people suspect their child has ingested liquid from an e-cigarette they can call poison control 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.