Madeline Heim and Letitia Stein, Appleton Post-Crescent
One vial contains enough poison to kill four toddlers. A single sip can be deadly. And yet, in Wisconsin and across the country, liquid nicotine continues to be sold in enticing candy colors and flavors, in bottles that lack federally required child-resistant caps or devices that limit how much can spill out of them at once.
Emergency rooms saw an estimated 4,200 injuries to young children resulting from ingestion from 2015 to 2018, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission figures. Pediatricians say it’s dangerous even to touch or inhale the highly concentrated liquid nicotine.
From January to November of this year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ call logs include nearly 4,400 cases involving exposure to vaping products. More than half were for children 5 and younger.
Unlike a deadly outbreak of vape-related respiratory illness that has sickened more than 2,000 people and prompted calls for stricter policing of e-cigarettes, accidents involving liquid nicotine bottles were a highly foreseeable threat.
In fact, a push for regulation began five years ago, and a federal law to require caps and flow restrictors on bottles is more than three years old.
But those regulations have been enforced in “slow motion,” said Kyran Quinlan, an American Academy of Pediatrics leader on injury violence and poison prevention.
As of February, the safety commission’s newly appointed commissioner wrote in a Twitter post that “as much as 100% of the liquid nicotine containers do not comply fully” with requirements that included flow restriction.
And nine months later, a USA TODAY investigation has found, dangerous and illegal bottles could be purchased with ease across the country.