Chow Line: FDA Warns Adults to Keep Kids Away from Liquid Nicotine

Various flavors of liquid nicotine for use in electronic cigarettes. Photo: Thinkstock.

My son found an e-cigarette strawberry flavored nicotine pack and almost drank it thinking that it was some kind of candy. Luckily I stopped him in time, but are these products safe for kids?


As e-cigarettes have become more popular, the number of children who have been exposed to liquid nicotine has also increased.

So says the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, which this week warned parents, caregivers and other adults to be vigilant to keep kids from getting their hands on these packs of liquid nicotine and drinking them.

The new warning comes as data from the National Poison Data System shows that from January 2012 to April 2017, the agency received 8,269 calls related to liquid nicotine exposure in children younger than 6, mostly in regard to children drinking these products, FDA said.

So what are e-cigarettes and how are kids confusing the nicotine packs for something to drink?

E-cigarettes, also called vapes, are a form of electronic nicotine delivery systems that are battery-operated smoking devices that can resemble regular cigarettes. The e-cigarette is equipped with a heating device that converts cartridges filled with liquid nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into a vapor, which a person then inhales, similar to smoking a regular cigarette. Some of the flavors of liquid nicotine packs include cherry, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and mint.

These products have grown in popularity with teens and young adults. In fact, nearly one in four high school students use electronic nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics puts the number at 3 million U.S. adolescents who use e-cigarettes.

One of the issues of growing concern for FDA is that some of the liquid nicotine is packaged in containers that look like kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candy or cookies, with some having cartoon images that “can seem tempting to children of all ages,” FDA said in a statement.

“For example, some e-liquids may have labeling or advertising that misleads kids into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink—like a juice box, piece of candy or cookie,” FDA said. 

The danger from such accidental exposure is significant for kids. Kids who ingest or drink liquid nicotine can experience a seizure, coma, respiratory arrest and death from cardiac arrest, FDA said.

As a result, the federal agency advises consumers who choose to use e-cigarettes to:

  • Always store e-liquids in their original containers, so others know exactly what they are. This will help children know to avoid these products.
  • Always make sure product caps are locked when you’re not using them, and relock caps when you’re finished.
  • Avoid contact with your skin and eyes when you use these products. E-liquid exposure can cause burning and irritation, among other problems. In case of accidental contact with skin or eyes, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Clean up any spills or splashes immediately using soap and water.
  • Never drink e-liquid, or allow anyone to drink it, because the liquid nicotine can be poisonous.
  • Call Poison Control immediately if a child accidentally drinks e-liquid, at 1-800-222-1222. Also call this number if you think your child has been exposed to these products—even if you’re not completely sure.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension.

Tracy Turner
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Jenny Lobb
Family and Consumer Sciences