From The Boston Globe
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon, and even the barrel.
The drug is nicotine
, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings, and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredient in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
But like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. They are mixed on factory floors and in the back rooms of “vaping” shops, and sold legally in stores and online in small bottles that are kept casually around the house for regular refilling of e-cigarettes.
Evidence of the potential dangers is emerging. Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their neon-bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate, and bubble gum.
Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring.
Recreational use of liquid nicotine has in effect created an entire new drug category, and a controversial one. For advocates of e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine represents the fuel of a technology that might prompt people to quit smoking, and there is anecdotal evidence that is happening. But there are no long-term studies about whether e-cigarettes will be better than nicotine gum or patches at helping people quit. Nor are there studies about the long-term effects of inhaling vaporized nicotine.
Unlike nicotine gums and patches, there also is no regulation of e-cigarettes or their ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration has said it plans to regulate e-cigarettes but has not disclosed how it will approach the issue. Many e-cigarette companies hope there will be limited regulation.