A recent case report in the New England Journal of Medicine discusses a 10-month-old child who was brought to an emergency room after ingesting a small amount of mint-flavored liquid nicotine used to “vape” from an electronic cigarette.

The infant had trouble breathing and a fast heart rate. A greater ingestion of as little as a teaspoon would have been fatal. There are few, if any, liquids in a household this deadly.

What is in liquid nicotine? The answer to that question remains unclear. Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the bottles. At this present time, anyone can make and sell it.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has found “e-liquid,” or liquid nicotine, contaminated with poisons such as diethylene glycol – a compound implicated in many worldwide accidental poisoning deaths among children.

It’s not just the nicotine in the bottle that can potentially be deadly, but multiple other ingredients that undergo no formal testing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s been a 200 percent increase in the number of calls to poison control centers across the U.S. regarding concerns over e-cigarette exposure. Among those exposed, more than half were children under 5 years old. It is easy to see why children might be attracted to this product.

The candy flavors, such as “gummy bear,” along with brightly colored bottles, are appealing to children of all ages.

The U.S. government allows electronic cigarettes and the liquid nicotine that fills them to be purchased and distributed without regulations. Without childproofing measures or safety regulations, liquid nicotine has the potential to poison many children.

Federal regulation is urgently needed. These regulations should ban the sale of nicotine to all minors, enforce safety measures including childproofing, and potentially limit flavorings – for the safety of our children.

Jillian Gregory, DO

Maine Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics