Vitamins Are More Dangerous Than E-Cigs

Mar 25, 2014 at 4:39 PM ET

Liquid nicotine can kill you or your children. And The New York Times is on it.

The Gray Lady issued her stern precaution Monday with a provocative, front-page headline: “E-Cigarettes Spawn Poison Sold by Barrel.” The report examines the dangers of “e-liquids” that are feeding the fast-growing and unregulated electronic cigarette industry.

Just how grave is this potent cocktail of neurotoxins fashioned from nicotine and other chemicals? A single teaspoon of e-liquid can spell the end for a small child, the Times warns, with a tablespoon enough to prove fatal for a grown adult. Tiny amounts will induce vomiting and seizures among adults.

How many children have actually died from e-liquid in the United States? Zero. In fact, the only person to die from e-liquid was an adult who injected nicotine, according to the Times. That death was a suicide.

The alarmist headlines might not be entirely justified, when you consider how many people die each year in the United States from secondhand smoke (a figure not reflected in The New York Times story). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 42,000 die every year from passive smoking. Guess what kind of cigarettes don’t emit secondhand smoke? That’s right. E-cigs.

Not that we’re shilling for robo-smokes (after all, they do explode in your face). Nicotine liquid may not be quite the killer it has been made out to be, but there is hard evidence of nicotine’s dangerous potential. Reports of accidental poisonings by e-liquids are surging, according to the Times. Poison control centers nationwide fielded 1,351 cases involving e-cigarettes and nicotine, a 300 percent bump from 2012. Many of those cases involved children.

Don’t go packing away the cyber-cigarillos just yet, though. Here’s the silver lining, which you won’t find in the Times report. Although 1,351 people were exposed to the dangers of nicotine liquid poisoning, on the grand scale of things, it’s a pretty rare occurrence. In fact, people are way more likely to poison themselves using vitamins, cosmetics and electrolytes, as do hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. each year, according to the National Poison Data System. Toys, art supplies and plants, meanwhile, are more likely to poison children. So the claims of the new e-cigarette apocalypse? Smoke and mirrors.