• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Nicotine poisoning rockets mid e-cig battle

The Local · 30 Dec 2013, 16:30

Published: 30 Dec 2013 14:59 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Dec 2013 16:30 GMT+01:00

Twenty-nine cases of nicotine poisoning specifically from electronic cigarettes were reported this year in Sweden, nearly a tenfold increase from last year's three incidents. A third of the reported cases were children, the Swedish Poison Information Centre (SPIC) stated.

"We are extremely worried about this product, which is spreading like wildfire," said Barbro Holm Ivarsson, spokesperson from Pscyhologists Against Tobacco, to news agency TT. "And if such strong liquids are going to exist then it is a very serious problem that they are not regulated yet."

E-cigarettes, or e-cigs, are made to look like real cigarettes but instead contain a battery, small heater, and liquid known as smoke juice. The liquid is heated into a vapour which the user then inhales. The liquid usually contains nicotine, but not always.

The sale of smoke juice containing nicotine is banned in Sweden, but it can still be ordered online and has a growing street market. Since it is the vapour that users inhale, the liquid inside of the e-cig is extremely concentrated - and quickly becomes lethal.

"The concentration of nicotine in a 10 milliletre bottle (of smoke juice) is so strong it can kill a small child," Ivarsson said, confirming a statement by the World Health Organisation.

In May, a two-year-old girl in Israel died after drinking the liquid, and cases of liquid nicotine poisoning are becoming increasingly common worldwide. Poisoning usually occurs through drinking liquid nicotine refills for the e-cigs.

"I don't think we have had any cases (in Sweden) where a child inhaled it," Eva Olsson, pharmacist at SPIC, told The Local. "Usually kids find the little bottle and drink it. And it's essentially the same thing as a child smoking a cigarette. They are not used to the nicotine and their bodies can't handle it."

Pharmacists at SPIC have seen serious cases involving symptoms of vomiting, shock, seizures, and heart palpitations, but no deaths yet.

E-cigarettes have been a hot-topic in the EU for the past few months, with a town in northern France banning their public use in November, and a national ban likely to follow. Spain followed suit in mid-December.

The European parliament voted in October against classifying the products as medicinal, a move which would have made e-cigs available only from pharmacies. But in Sweden, as well as Denmark and Finland, e-cigs containing nicotine are still classified as medicine. All medicines must be investigated and regulated before they can be sold, resulting in a de facto ban of e-cigarettes, which are still somewhat novel. 

"It's very unclear," Olsson said. "Nicotine is classified as medicine, but the laws regarding (the liquid) are not finished. People can still order it online and some stores sell it over the counter. Selling it is not really allowed, but it's not really forbidden either. " 

The Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkermedelsverket) forbid a distributor in Skåne County from selling e-cigs in October, and the agency continues to watch online retailers and kiosks who break the rules. Essentially the agency is waiting for the EU to decide once and for all if e-cigarettes are medicinal or simply tobacco. 

"Straight nicotine is classified as medicine by Swedish law, so Swedish actors are not allowed to sell it," agency spokesperson Mårten Forrest told The Local. "But this is not an approved and studied medicine yet, so you shouldn't be able to import it, either."

If they are classified and sold as medicine, distributors must prove that they help rehabilitate tobacco addiction and that they are safe. A randomised trial study by The Lancet concluded that e-cigarettes are at least as effective as methods such as cutting down or using nicotine patches when it comes to quitting smoking - even when using non-nicotine e-cigs. 

Earlier this month, a leaked European Commission document revealed plans to regulate and heavily restrict e-cigarettes by 2017, with such measures that would ban all currently available e-cigs. The leak was met with an outcry by many who have helped stop smoking thanks to e-cigs.  Many supporters, users and health professionals alike, claim they are a less dangerous alternative to normal cigarettes, which were the substance involved in over 1,000 of the calls SPIC received during the year. 

However, the World Health Organisation has "strongly advised" against e-cigs, citing potential health problems and claiming the risks of e-cig usage "remain undetermined". 

British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that the EU wants the tobacco-free e-cigs to be covered in a "tobacco products directive",  claiming that e-cigs "normalize the act of smoking" and "can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes". 

 

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Drunken Christmas goat burner risks four years in jail
The Christmas goat looks at the fireworks and contemplates its future. Photo: Mats Åstrand/TT

His singed eyebrows were a dead giveaway.

Joe Biden: 'Sweden has shown great leadership'
Joe Biden, left, and Stefan Löfven. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

US Vice President Joe Biden praised Sweden for "punching way above its weight" in the global refugee crisis.

Nepal's Sherpas rebuild Swedish mountain paths
Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain. Photo: Stockholms Universitet

Nepalese sherpas have been called in to improve hillwalking safety on Sweden's highest mountain Kebnekaise.

23 people tricked into renting the same Malmö apartment
Sweden's housing market is notoriously tricky. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

"I have never felt so stupid and so conned."

Sweden on standby to help earthquake-hit Italy
Rescue workers search through the debris. Photo: AP Photo/Sandro Perozzi

Swedish authorities are ready, if asked, to quickly assist Italy as it recovers from a deadly earthquake.

We harmed Sweden's teachers and should apologize: prof
A tired pupil at a school in Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

"The situation is very worrying," says Professor Jonas Linderoth.

US keeper kicked off team for calling Swedes cowards
Hope Solo made her comments after Sweden knocked the US team out of the Olympics. Photo: Eugenio Savio/AP

The US team will be Hope-less for six months.

Five must-see cultural events in Sweden this weekend
Like The Bridge? You'll love one of the events we've picked out for this weekend. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

The summer is almost over but Sweden saved the best for last with these cultural events this weekend – including one that will make The Bridge fans happy.

Was there a secret plot to kill Swedish ex-UN chief?
Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN's Secretary General, pictured months before his death in 1961. Photo: TT

Ban Ki-moon wants to find out.

Joe Biden to arrive in Sweden for refugee talks
Stefan Löfven meets Joe Biden during a visit to Washington in March 2015. Photo: Monica Enqvist/Government Offices of Sweden

US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Stockholm on Wednesday evening ahead of talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven that are expected to focus on migration and refugees.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,361
jobs available