The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, intended to reduce the odds of kids getting their little hands on tasty-looking – but poisonous – liquid nicotine, appears destined to be the first new federal law regulating e-cigarettes. Yesterday, Congress passed the measure, which now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
The Act [PDF], introduced by Florida Senator Bill Nelson, aims to treat the packaging of liquid nicotine the same as household substances under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970: requiring the use of childproof bottles and containers.
Liquid nicotine, used to refill e-cigarettes, has been a point of concern for consumer advocates, health officials, and lawmakers in recent years, with reports indicating that children, who may be drawn to the product’s bright color packaging and flavors, are at a higher risk of death from coming into contact with the toxin.
According to poison control data, the substance is highly toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin; as little as half a teaspoon can be fatal if ingested by an average-sized toddler. In 2014, poison control centers received more than 3,000 calls related to e-cigarette and liquid nicotine exposure, and one toddler died, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports.
At issue in the bill is the packaging of the products. Currently, manufacturers aren’t required to use child-resistant containers.
That would change under the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, as manufacturers of liquid nicotine will be required to sell products in child-resistant packaging — consistent with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards — within six months of the bill’s passage.
The packaging must be difficult for children under five years of age to open or to obtain harmful contents from.
Additionally, the measure will preserve the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate the packaging of tobacco products.
Advocacy groups were quick to applaud the bill’s passage.
“This legislation will go far to protect young children from the dangers of liquid nicotine,” Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and Kids in Danger said in a joint statement on Monday. “Just one teaspoon can be fatal to a child. And this safety threat only continues to grow as e-cigarettes and other vaping devices grow in popularity.”