Public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who first helped to alert the public to this newly-discovered hazard caused by this totally unregulated product, is now suggesting that the same risk could also be present for pets. They, like youngsters, may well be attracted to the novel aroma of the nicotine-based liquid, and seek to lick it; perhaps even using sharp teeth and/or claws to attack the flimsy cartridge.
Responsible adults who might never think of leaving prescription or even over-the-counter drugs where infants or pets could get to them apparently are not recognizing the deadly danger concentrated nicotine can present, especially to toddlers, most cats, and small dogs, for whom the amount of nicotine in a cartridge would result in a serious concentration of the toxin in a small entity exposed to it.
Since we know from published reports that adults are in fact leaving e-cigarette paraphernalia where infants can and are getting to it, it's certainly possible that the same thing can and will continue to happen to pets for the same reason; users simply don't recognize it as a product - like drain cleaner or lye - which can be dangerous to youngsters as well as to pets.
It's well known that even the small amount of nicotine found in a single cigarette butt can be dangerous for small animals, and pet poison web sites warn smokers about leaving tobacco products where their pets can get to them. Unfortunately, they do not yet provide the same warning about e-cigarettes.
Even a small amount of nicotine can have a very big effect. For example, one woman noticed that her dogs immediately got sick every time after her lawn was mowed. She later discovered that the mower chewed tobacco and spit. This small amount of spittle, scattered over a lawn, was still enough to sicken several of her dogs, and they were attracted although the odor was far from enticing.
So, says Banzhaf, pet owners, like parents and others with very young children in the home, should take extra care to keep e-cigarettes and their associated paraphernalia locked safely away where it cannot cause a tragedy - treating e-cigarettes and what goes with them just as they would their drain cleaners, lye, prescription drugs, and even bottles of aspirin.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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