Alarming rise in nicotine poisoning in children could lead to fatalities, Dáil hears

Danger of non-regulation of e-cigarettes as 11 children under six, two teenagers poisoned

Mary Mitchell O’Connor has warned about the risks of e-cigarettes

Mary Mitchell O’Connor has warned about the risks of e-cigarettes


A Government backbencher has warned of potential child fatalities from non-regulation of electronic cigarettes after an alarming rise in the number nicotine poisoning cases.

Dún Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor told the Dáil that the clinical director of the National Poisons Information Centre Dr Edel Duggan was very worried about the dangers posed by e-cigarettes.

“She is especially concerned about the alarming spike in the numbers of children in particular who have suffered from nicotine poisoning over the past two years.”

Ms Mitchell O’Connor said: “Dr Duggan believes that there could be a fatality if the problem is not addressed urgently.”

She added there were nearly as many cases recorded in the first three months of this year as there were in the whole of 2013. There have been 17 cases, involving 11 children under six, two teenagers and four adults.

The Fine Gael TD said the poisons centre believed the real number of nicotine poisoning cases was probably much higher than 17.

An electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is a battery-operated product designed to deliver nicotine, flavour and other chemicals, which are vaporised into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.

“These e-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine that can cause acute illness and vomiting in young children,” and severe nicotine poisoning could lead to coma, convulsions, heart attacks and respiratory arrest.

She said the business was worth €7.3million in Ireland and had increased by 500 per cent in the past year.

She believed tobacco manufacturers were taking advantage of the fact that they remain unregulated. There was a “haziness about whether or not e-cigarettes can help you quit smoking”.

More likely
Because of their attractiveness, e-cigarettes were more likely than ordinary cigarettes to be tried by children, she said.

Minister for Health James Reilly said his department was reviewing the available international research and literature relating to e-cigarettes, including their health effects.

He said e-cigarettes were not a tobacco product and could not be regulated under tobacco legislation. But “it is my intention to introduce further regulation on e-cigarettes as necessary and appropriate”.

He said he was also concerned “from a tobacco denormalisation perspective, and taking into account any erosion of significant developments in the tobacco area in the last decade”.