TODAY

TODAY   |  March 25, 2014

E-cigarette health risks cited

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News’ chief medical editor, joins TODAY to discuss the alarming news about electronic cigarettes and the liquid nicotine used to fill the popular devices.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "today's health" is brought to you by alka-seltzer plus severe allergy and cough plus.

>>> alarming news about ecigarettes and liquid nicotine. first available in the u.s. in 2007 , ecigarettes are $1.5 billion industry. in 2010 , approximately 10% of current cigarette smokers tried them. that number doubled to 21% in 2011 . and they are growing in popularity among younger people. in 2012 , close to 2 million middle and high school students had tried them. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor.

>> hey, matt.

>> fda has no oversight.

>> no approval.

>> you like them in general? are they safe?

>> well, i think the premise, i liked at the beginning, was nicotine in small doses could perhaps help smokers stop smoking. i don't know that the jury is in yet it's gotten people off cigarettes and on to these nicotine devices. but if i show you something like this which is like a preloaded, looks like a typical cigarette. preloaded, you buy it, it's a done deal. the issue comes in something like this, which has screw top you can take off and then there's a cylinder and then you can fill this with all kinds of stuff, including flavored nicotine liquid. vanilla, caramel, you name it. and the question is then, does it taste too good? and does it invite kids to try it?

>> if it's ingested with a young child, if it comes into contact with skin, it can cause problems?

>> it can cause death. the poison control center has said not only can a teaspoon of liquid nicotine that can be found in a container like this, a teaspoon alone could cause seizures and death. a tablespoon for adults. they're advising that if people use the refillable ones, you have to use gloves. and that brings up a toxic hazard.

>> we reached out to multiple companies for comment. one replied, saying its eliquids are sold in sealed child proof packaging containing warning labels specifically directed at children and pets.

>> and they're right. but the question is, what do you do when you get home and these things are undone and casual appearance around the house. we have to remember, pets sometimes eat the same thing. and while some people in this country are inviting regulation because they want to keep the bad guys on the fringe out, remind there is product coming in from china. so the nicotine amounts not only all over the charts, you have to worry about the fact, well, it's a neurotoxin, and we've said it doesn't cause cancer, it does directly affect the brain. and small concentrations may be fine. but if you don't know what you're getting, it could be deadly.

>> we appreciate the information. dr.