In Canada yesterday, vaping made national news — and it was bad for everyone concerned.
A nine-year-old in Fredericton, New Brunswick, picked up a bottle of e-liquid from a school playground and tasted it. The child’s mother, Lea L’Hoir, told the CBC that the girl and her friends all tasted the liquid because it smelled good and had a unicorn on the label.
“They decided to taste it and after that, my daughter wasn’t feeling too good,” she said. The girl also put some of the e-liquid on her hand. The school contacted the mother after the girl complained about nausea, chest cramps and dizziness.
After googling the effects on nicotine ingestion, L’Hoir took her daughter to the hospital. According to her, the girl was diagnosed with nicotine poisoning and released from the hospital later that night.
“I didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep last night,” L’Hoir said. “I was completely horrified that she could have passed away, maybe if she had taken, you know, more of the bottle.”
There is no word on whether any of the other children who drank the liquid had symptoms.
Labels: the debate continues
While it’s very unlikely that a nine-year-old would be able to ingest and absorb enough nicotine from commercial e-liquid to cause death, it’s also not impossible. There have been similar well-publicized events and probably others that haven’t gotten press coverage.
Ms. L’Hoir told the CBC she was shocked that the e-liquid — called Unicorn Milk — only had ingredient information in fine print, and a small poison symbol on the side. New Beginnings Vape Studio in Fredericton is the manufacturer of Unicorn Milk. The owner said he would consider changing the label after the incident.
The Canadian Senate is considering Bill S-5, which will regulate vaping products. The bill is close to being sent to the House of Commons. The new law will give Health Canada leeway to regulate e-liquid labeling and flavors. As it stands, the law will prohibit anything that might appeal to children.
Who’s fault is it anyway?
This event is almost a perfect storm of the flavor and labeling issues that face the vaping industry. It raises many questions:
- How can manufacturers create attractive labels that get buyers’ attention without also appealing to kids?
- Should labels that can be mistaken for candy or fruit juice by small children be illegal?
- How can we educate the general public about the risks of drinking e-liquid without demonizing their use for vaping?
- Who is responsible in a situation where no one is really responsible?
The debate on e-liquid labels has mostly centered on the risk of labels causing teenagers to take up vaping. This incident raises a different (but related) concern: is it responsible for manufacturers to use labels that confuse small children about what is in the bottle? Events like this one make it likely that the decision may be taken out of our hands.