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Toddler’s accidental overdose on e-cigarette liquid happened in seconds

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity for those who want to quit or find an alternative to smoking. I have one myself, and I have two young children. After hearing about 22-month-old Winona’s almost instant e-cigarette liquid poisoning, it’s clear that something needs to be done about regulations and packaging on this highly-toxic, candy-like substance.

Seattle-based mom Nicole Oliver said that her young daughter’s poisoning happened in seconds. Oliver described her daughter’s condition to WLTX 19, “Her eyes were rolling back in her head and she was just flopping around.”

How terrifying. Winona’s parents were normally vigilant about putting their e-Liquid away after use. However, on this morning as Winona and her 3-year-old brother were getting ready, Oliver’s older son was thought to have opened the twist-off e-Liquid container. Winona drank half of the 15-milliliter bottle in just a few seconds, as toddlers are prone to do. Oliver states that she was gone for just a minute when the incident happened.

Anytime a story like this surfaces, commenters are quick to blame the parents. But before you cast that first stone, take a moment to think about how perfect you are as a parent. I know that I am not capable of watching my kids every second of the day. I am an occasional e-cigarette user, and I store the liquid on top of a high cabinet that only a superhuman gargoyle baby could reach.

But still. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of crazy toddlers and forget something important, like putting your e-Liquid away. While parents should take the same precautions with all medications and household chemicals, e-cigarette liquids are a particular concern because they can taste and smell delicious. A bottle of fruity e-Liquid is more enticing than your average jug of bleach. Dr. Alexander Garrard of the Washington Poison Center says that is a major part of the problem.

Dr. Garrard explains, “Kids can’t differentiate that this is nicotine. They don’t know what that is. It’s pretty alarming — the trend that we’ve seen in e-cigarette exposures, especially amongst kids. Our call volume at the Washington Poison Center has increased now over 700 percent.”

I know my e-cigarette liquid comes in childproof packaging with a warning to keep out of reach of pets and children, but this is not an industry standard.

Winona’s parents aren’t negligent idiots — they are just normal people who made a mistake. We can learn from their mistake, especially if you happen to be an e-cigarette user. Although the incident was alarming, Winona recovered quickly at the hospital. The Department of Health is currently working on better e-Liquid standards for regulation, warnings and childproof packaging. Until that time, take this cautionary tale to heart. E-Liquid is just as dangerous as any other household chemical and should be treated as such.

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