Florida Poison Control warns of e-cig liquid refills posing risk to children

One bottle of e-liquid can contain the same amount of nicotine as 100 cigarettes


ORLANDO, Fla. – E-cigarettes are all the rage right now, turning into a nearly $2 billion industry.

While many are using the vapor cigarettes to assist in their effort to quit smoking, it could be putting your children at risk.

[WEB EXTRA: E-Cig Liquid poses risks to children]

The American Association of Poison Control Centers is issuing a warning because the number of poisoning cases among children has increased 300 percent in the past year.

Jeremy Siegel owns The VaporShoppe, an online e-cigarette retailer based in Altamonte Springs.

Siegel started selling e-cigarettes after using one to quit smoking.

"It gives you the satisfaction of smoking and the enjoyment of smoking without the carcinogens found in traditional tobacco cigarettes. The nicotine is very similar to caffeine, in moderation (it) is not considered bad for you," said Siegel.

But poison control warns the amount of nicotine in those tiny vials can pack a dangerous punch.

Dr. Alfred Alegues, with the Poison Control Center in Tampa, says one 30 milliliter bottle of e-liquid can have the same amount of nicotine as 100 cigarettes.

"Kids are seeing you fill up a very attractive gadget and they're drawn to that," said Alegues.

But how much would it take to harm a child?

He says a lick of e-cig liquid can make a child sick and a teaspoon can prove fatal.

Ren Gaulrapp's 5-year-old son was lucky. A year ago he got into his father's e-liquid bottle.

"It did make him very, very ill. He threw up for two days, called poison control went to the emergency room; as soon as we found out it was all over him. And then was very very cranky the next three days," said Gaulrapp.

Cranky because even though the poisoning was over, his doctor said her son was dealing with severe nicotine withdrawal.

And keep in mind it's not just drinking the liquid.

"They can even get the toxicity from skin contact. The workers actually wear fully protective garb, full clothing, gloves and because they don't want to come into contact with it because they know it's very toxic," explained Dr. Josef Thundiyil, of Orlando Health. 

In 2013 there were more than 1,300 calls to poison control centers nationwide. 

That's up 300 percent from the year before.

And the national poison data system says the number is on pace to double this year.

Thundiyil, who specializes in medical toxicology, worries we haven't seen the worst yet.

"I don't think it's a matter of if it will be a higher number but when and when we will see a fatality from it," said Thundiyil.

That's why as much as Siegel believes in e-cigs and their power to help people quit, he only sells vials with child-resistant caps and advocates responsibility.

"They would want to take the same care and caution that they would with cigarette lighters, matches, medications -- anything not intended to be used by anyone under the age of 18," said Siegel.

Siegel also points out statistics show the number of fire deaths caused by children playing with matches and lighters has dramatically decreased since e-cigs became popular in 2008.