Misleading statements in the press about nicotine poisonings from e-cigarettes


By Dr Farsalinos

A recent article in “The Local-Sweden”, signed by journalist Ms Solveig Rundquist, referred to the issue of nicotine “poisonings” in Sweden as a result of accidental exposure from e-cigarettes. The article mentioned that: “Liquid and vapour nicotine is becoming a household poison, with a tenfold increase in cases of e-cigarette poisoning in Sweden, including children who drink the refills.” (bold letters as found in the original article). Subsequently, they explained that the total number of calls to the Swedish Poisons Information Center were 29 (from 3 calls the previous year), with one-third of the reported cases affecting children. No death or permanent health damage was reported. The article featured statements from public health officials in Sweden, expressing concern about this public health danger. Moreover, the article mentioned the need for regulation for e-cigarettes, implying that regulation will reduce accidental exposure and poisonings.

In reality, the numbers are true. Similarly, if they checked the elevation of poisonings since (for example) 2007, they would have found an infinite elevation of cases (since zero cannot be multiplied by any number to result in 29). However, it is interesting to see what is mentioned in the official annual report of the Swedish Poisons Center about received calls in 2012.

In their official report, they state that they received in total 81,341 inquires in 2012. Therefore, calls for e-cigarettes (29 cases) represent less than 0.036% of total calls. For children’s’ exposure and poisonings, 30,790 calls were made. Of these, 50% (more than 15,000 cases) were poisonings from household cleaning products and cosmetics, 30% (more than 9000 cases) from pharmaceuticals and 4% (more than 1200 cases) from tobacco cigarettes. The 10 cases reported for e-cigarettes represent 0.034% of all cases in children.

This is another article trying to intimidate and terrify the society. Unfortunately, they have advanced a step further than before. This time, they do not try to produce fear to the users but want to turn the whole society against vapers and against the group of smokers who are thinking of using e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative. It is not by coincidence that within a few days similar articles about poisonings were released in the US (found here, here and here). Concerning the Swedish article, on December 31, 2013 I specifically contacted the journalist and presented to her all available information coming from the official report of the Swedish Poisons Information Center. Although she replied (through twitter and not by answering to my email!!) that she will write another article, she never did until now. Although I don’t blame journalists for being misinformed, they should be responsible on how they inform the public and they should AT LEAST correct their articles when objective data and evidence supports the need for corrections.  


There is no doubt that behind all these articles is an organized campaign and effort by some members tobacco control movement to attack e-cigarettes, incriminate use and users and turn the society against vapers and smokers. This is the way the approach this issue: propaganda and fear-mongering tactics, complete distortion of science and truth, obscure lies and absolute disrespect for the health of smokers and vapers.



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