E-cigarette are touted as a safe alternative to a tobacco cigarette. However, a new report published in the U.S. cautions that they may be the cause of an increase in poisonings. Is the trend the same in Canada too?
A report released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. showed that the number of e-cigarette related calls received by the poison control centers in the U.S. increased from one call per month to as many as 200 calls per month by 2014.
The Canadian Association of Poison Control has determined that the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is the culprit. Liquid nicotine comes in disposable or refillable cartridges. If the cartridge is not refilled properly, or it happens go into wrong hands, the nicotine liquid could cause eye or skin irritation and vomiting or nausea.
E-cigarettes with nicotine have not been approved by Health Canada, unlike the U.S. Therefore, it is not possible to sell e-cigarettes and e-liquids that contain nicotine in Canada without obtaining the necessary approval. Further, the agency has not disclosed any information as regards the number of applications filed.
In a written statement to Global News, Gary Holub, Health Canada spokesperson, has said that as of date sufficient evidence as regards the potential benefits of using e-cigarettes by Canadians as a means to quit smoking is not available and risks outweigh the benefits.
He added that to get their product authorized, companies should submit proof as regards effectiveness, quality and safety. He also noted that in the absence of scientific evidence, Health Canada would continue to advise Canadians to refrain from using e-smokes and has outright banned nicotine loaded electronic smoking devises.
According to Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, e-cigarettes are not promoted by the Canadian Cancer Society as well. He said that the society would recommend only nicotine replacement products such as gum, lozenges, patch, inhaler and mouth spray that have been approved by Health Canada.
However, these actions have not prevented Canadians from accessing e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. Cunningham said that some consumers are able to obtain electronic smoking products that contain nicotine either through some brick and mortar or online stores irrespective of the fact that the sale of these products is not approved.
Health Canada does not keep track of the adverse effects caused by a product that is not approved for sale in Canada. Further, a national call database is also not available. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain the number of calls related to poisonings from e-cigarettes.
For example, only 12 exposures to e-fluids containing nicotine have been recorded over the last two years in B.C. The Centre for Disease Control in B.C. told Global News that the figure may not be accurate as they have done only a superficial scan.
In Alberta, it is not possible to identify calls related to e-cigarettes poisoning at all. A spokesperson said that statistics related to e-cigarettes are not being maintained currently as they are relatively new products.
However, Ontario logged as many as 10 calls last year, which included two kids and teens each and six adults. According to the poison control centre in the province, they receive more number of calls related to children’s exposure to real cigarettes. This is because of parents leaving ashtrays in the open and children picking up butts from the streets or playgrounds and taking whole cigarettes out of pockets.