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The dangers of liquid nicotine

Nicotine 'e-liquid', the fluid used in an e-cigarette, has the potential to cause poisoning if it is swallowed or absorbed through the skin.

At high enough doses, nicotine is very toxic. Nicotine ‘e-liquid’ (the fluid used in an e-cigarette) has the potential to cause poisoning if swallowed or absorbed through the skin, and can even be fatal. In October 2008, the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee made the following comments about the toxicity of nicotine:

"Nicotine is a highly toxic substance and in acute poisoning, death may occur within minutes due to respiratory failure arising from paralysis of the muscles of respiration. The fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is 40 to 60mg….Nicotine is rapidly absorbed through the skin, by inhalation and by ingestion. Typical symptoms of nicotine absorption include burning of the mouth and throat, nausea and salivation, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, weakness, hypertension followed by hypotension, mental confusion, headache, hearing and visual disturbances, dyspnoea, faintness, convulsions, sweating, and prostration. Transient cardiac standstill or paroxysmal atrial fibrillation may occur."

The risk of nicotine poisoning is very concerning given that most e-cigarettes and e-liquid products are not made with basic safety features. E-cigarettes and e-liquid containers may leak, causing a hazard when nicotine is absorbed through the skin, and e-liquid containers can be easily opened. 

In recent years, there have been more calls to poison information centres because of unintended swallowing of the e-liquid, particularly by children. E-liquid products are also typically sold in a range of confectionery, fruit and other fun flavours, and are often packaged in a way that is likely to appeal to children. 

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