Numbers Don’t Lie: You’re More Likely to Be Poisoned By Toothpaste than E-Liquid

Over the past two weeks, there has been a virtual firestorm as outraged vapers protest a recent article in the New York Times, which described e-liquids as dangerous and even deadly. Like most coverage from the mainstream media, The Times focused on e-cigarettes as a lethal option and completely ignored the benefits that vaping can offer smokers. Forget the fact that e-cigs eliminate thousands of carcinogens. Ignore the fact that there is no tobacco, no tar, no ash, and no smoke. All they want you to think about is e-liquid and the fact that it contains – gasp! – nicotine.

There is no denying that nicotine is a stimulant and drinking e-liquid could theoretically kill you. However, there has never been a single death by accidental e-liquid ingestion. The only known e-liquid fatality was a man that intentionally killed himself by injecting e-liquid with a needle.

The Times ignored the lack of fatalities and focused on e-liquid related calls to Poison Control, which totaled 1,300 in 2013. Around a quarter of those calls resulted in visits to a hospital. If you look at the booming e-cig industry and the massive sales volume of electronic cigarettes last year, the number of calls to poison control is actually very minimal. Bloomberg reports that e-cig sales topped $1.7 billion last year and thousands of people use e-liquids daily. Still, those 365 visits to the hospital were enough for The Times to seize the opportunity to paint electronic cigarettes as deadly.

Of course, any poisoning episode is concerning, but e-liquid poisoning is much more rare than the media wants to you to believe. If you take a look at the 2012 report from the National Poison Data System, there are a number of substances that case far more poisoning emergencies and fatalities. There were 193,443 reported cases of poisoning from household cleaners. Alcoholic beverages led to 54,445 calls to Poison Control and believe it or not, toothpaste led to 20,206 reported cases of poisoning.

When you think about over 20,000 people poisoned by toothpaste, those 365 hospital visits related to e-liquid seem almost insignificant. If the incidence of e-liquid poisoning increased to 15 times higher than 2013, it would still be less common than toothpaste poisoning.

So if we are going to depict e-liquid as deadly and ban it out of fear of poisoning, it’s only fair that we outlaw the more deadly substances like household cleaners, alcoholic beverages, and yes – even toothpaste.

Ultimately, the unfair focus on e-liquid hints at a bigger problem. The media is villainizing electronic cigarettes instead of focusing on the thousands of tobacco-related deaths each year. Instead of worrying about e-liquids, why not focus more energy on cigarettes? Even if e-liquid was presenting an immediate threat, it would still be much less than the danger of tobacco cigarettes. After all, there has never been a reported case of cancer, stroke, or heart disease linked to electronic cigarettes. Yet, we see that daily with analog cigarettes.

It seems that the media is picking on the wrong substance. Instead of bullying e-cigarettes and depicting e-liquid as the enemy, we should be encouraging smokers to seek out alternatives that are tobacco-free and smoke-free. We should teach the proper procedures for storing and handling e-liquids to prevent children and pets from ever coming in contact. And if it’s really necessary to ban e-liquids, there is a long list of substances that must be banned first. Why do you think the media is so obsessed with electronic cigarettes? What do they stand to gain by inciting fear over a product that could potentially help millions of smokers around the world?

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Author Focus: Katie Bercham
Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 2 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community... Read Full Profile >
  • Alan Fletcher

    An excellent post. The answer to your latter question in my view, is that Big Pharma is one of the best advertising customers for newspapers. The press just print anything Big P submits without any personal research. Latest research on nicotine toxicity has found that signs of poisoning (nausea, headaches) first show up at concentrations of between 1000 and 1500 mg/ml depending on the person. E-liquids carry a concentration of 36 mg/ml at most, with the average being 18 mg/ml. This probably very aptly explains why even toothpaste is more toxic. A British TV-presenter actually recently dripped 36 mg e-liquid onto his tongue and swallowed it just to demonstrate how relatively harmless it actually is. Needless to say, he suffered no adverse effects at all apart from experiencing a revolting taste in his mouth.