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FDA warns e-cig companies using 'kid-friendly' packaging

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued 13 warning letters.

ST. LOUIS – With clever packaging, electronic cigarettes can look like juice boxes, candy and cans of whipped cream. It's especially hard for young kids to tell the difference, and that's sending thousands of them to emergency rooms across the country.

According to the National Poison Data System data, between January 2012 and April of 2017, there were 8,269 e-cigarette and liquid nicotine exposures among kids younger than six years old.

The Missouri Poison Center says, from January 2017 through March of this year, there were 10 e-cigarette liquid exposures among kids younger than six in St. Louis County. It says there were four cases in St. Charles County and two cases in St. Louis during the same timeframe.

Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued 13 warning letters to companies for selling e-cigarettes with labeling and/or advertising resembling kid-friendly products such as cookies or candy.

Ladue Horton Watkins High School juniors Anya Tullman and Hannah Suffian know e-cigarettes aren't only disguised as food. Last fall, they noticed their peers using JUUL, a type of e-cigarette that looks like a thumb drive.

"We thought it would be interesting to kind of figure out what was behind the JUUL and this thing that everyone was so crazy about all of a sudden," Tullman said.

After Tullman and Suffian interviewed experts, including a pediatrician and an NCADA spokesperson, they published an article in Panorama, the school newspaper.

Additionally, school administrators sent a letter to parents in February with information about JUULing. In April, an NCADA representative came to the school to answer questions.

"We learned that the FDA didn't really know much about the JUUL because it hadn't been regulated by the FDA so nobody really knew what was in the JUUL like in terms of chemicals and if it was as dangerous as a regular cigarette," Tullman said.

Suffian said she's glad to see the FDA begin to crackdown on companies using misleading labeling.

"I think it's long overdue," Suffian said. "I think a lot of sicknesses and deaths could be prevented by it."

The Basics

Poison Prevention at Home

  • Lock up medicines and household products, out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store products in their original containers, never in food or drink containers.
  • Use child-resistant packages and put the tops on tightly.
  • Return the household products and medicines to their proper storage place immediately after use.
  • Don’t let children watch adults taking medicine. (Children like to imitate adults.)
  • Always read the label and follow the directions on medicines and products.
  • Call medicines by their proper names. Never call it candy.
  • Begin teaching safety rules to children at an early age.

For any questions or concerns about e-cigarette liquid , call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions. The service is free and confidential.