A child drinks e-liquid in Canada; whose fault is it?

A child drinking e-liquid in Canada has re-ignited a debate over what belongs on e-juice labels


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

girl drinks e-liquid

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?

girl drinks e-liquid

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.

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Gary Balkam

    There are no unicorns on bleach bottles, aspirin bottles, Laundry tabs boxes, floor cleaner bottles… but there are “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” warnings. Figuring the average 3 yr old cant read.. who is responsible? This whole topic is just a way for negligent parent to point the finger at somebody else, and not accept responsibility for their own kids in their own home. More charges need to be laid for child neglect and endangerment, ON THE PARENTS.

    • Shannon

      Well in this case the child was 9 (should be able to read at least some) and not in the home. You can’t really point the finger at mom when the child is at school. I don’t think we need bright fancy labels and I have no objection whatsoever to prominent warnings on them. I think child proof caps should be a requirement. Oh and teach kids if you don’t know what it is don’t touch it let alone drink it. that might be a good idea.

  • Andreas Tepper (TepMan)

    Time for a root cause analysis : how could this bottle lay around on a schools playground? If we have kids visiting us, my Liquids stay in a locked closet.

    • Jim McDonald

      I’m guessing it was dropped by an adult.

      • Darren Bentley

        Or it was a deliberate attempt to spark controversy.
        Children need to be educated by schools about harm or drugs , smoking and vaping and house hold poisons
        Parents passing blame because some one dropped it they should not of been trying it ,
        Surely they should of learned not to eat or drink stuff from off the floor.

  • wphouang

    I’m sorry, but parents these days are too unwilling to accept the responsibilities of raising a child with common sense. I’m not that old (28 yrs young), but I can remember a time when I was terrified to put things in my mouth that wasn’t given to me by someone I knew. Yes, this bottle happened to be laying around and yes it did happen to smell like strawberry milk, this is well understood. However, say a stranger offers your child strawberry milk, do they take it? It depends on the parenting. I even remember a commercial that used to run prominently about that issue. It had a catchy song all about not putting things in your mouth if you don’t know where its been! These are all on the kids (as mean as it sounds) and parents for not giving them conscious thought about what they do.

  • Joei Fraser

    lol so basically when it smells right and/or looks good it is a bad product? then why isn’t there so much shi on alcohol because that can taste and look good ? kids can smoke cigarettes because they parents smoke too, and they see that. but parents don’t drink e liquid so thats purely on curiosity of kids. so educate about that, but don’t start such a fuss about it either

  • Borad

    We could start naming juices with kid UNfriendly names:) Surely kids would never touch Dank Brussel Sprout e-juice or Fuggin Lima Bean e-juice. Obviously a Unicorn didn’t get milked to make that particular e-juice, so it’s just a name. Let’s get creative and not conform to stupid restrictions put in place by NON vapers! I’m vaping VanButtCus at the moment (Vanilla Butterscotch Custard – DIY)

    • UnknownEntity

      As a child, my brother drank gasoline my dad had stored in the shed for our mower. It was in a battered, rusty, ugly metal can. He was four and understood the concept of poison. My mother was horrified that he could consume something that smelled this bad; his answer was that he wanted to know what it tasted like and wanted to find out what would happen to him if he drank it. Okay…kids will just do some effed up crap. (He spent several days in the hospital.)

  • Andy Patterson

    What a crock of shite! Any excuse to point the finger of blame. i was always told not to eat or drink anything unless it was given to me by an adult that i knew. Kids today have got no idea and that’s because PARENTS ARE SHITE. Period!

  • UnknownEntity

    A child could die from drinking alcoholic beverages that are packaged in a highly attractive, brightly packaged bottle. A child could die from drinking it from a plain bottle. Children die from drinking poisons from bottles with gigantic poison graphics on them. Children die because they decided drinking bleach was the thing to do. Chidren will do just about any stupid thing you can imagine.

    It is foolish for anyone to become enraged and go after the vaping industry.

    Parents need to keep all dangerous substances away from their children and take responsibility for teaching them what not to consume. If the children visit the home of a vaper, they are responsible for the safety of the child. Individuals without small children of their own may not be on their toes about child safety issues.

  • Jonathan Morley

    While I understand the need for different ejuice makers to have their brand stand-out, I’m not convinced that brightly colored labels are necessary. For me I prefer more “regal” looking labels for two reasons, 1) because I’m adult. 2) I used to smoke cigars and am more drawn to the style of labels used by cigar makers. I don’t see why adults need brightly colored labels on ejuice.. it doesn’t affect how the juice tastes. Of course this isn’t the only product under scrutiny for endangering children. Remember those Tide laundry pods that look like candy. In the end the tobacco companies and any politician who stands to lose money from vaping products impeding the tobacco industry are going to use any scrupulous angle they can to hinder the vaping industry and try to deter people away from it.

    • Shannon

      Yes,now they come in child proof bags that are a ROYAL pain in the arse to open. Why? because mom and dad can’t be bothered to tell their kids this is soap don’t eat it. I agree though I don’t need bright cartoonish labels or childish names.

  • Blue

    Would this debate even exist if it had been a box of mint flavoured nicotine ‘lozengers’
    Those little white ‘lollies’ in the plastic flip top containers that are approved for ‘quit smoking’ NRT?

    • Jim McDonald

      Probably not, but they don’t have a label that says Unicorn Milk either.

      • G. Karl Snae MD

        But shouldn´t a nine year old know not to drink whatever comes around, and the bottle she picked was from the school playground!? Most wouldn´t drink that of course at that age, but the parents will surely inform her now. But some kids will do something nutty whatever the warnings, even at an older age 🙂

  • Titan_Saint

    What we need is a personal responsibility campaign.