TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Linda R. Greenstein that would protect children from accidentally ingesting liquid nicotine, commonly used in e-cigarettes, received final legislative approval in the Senate today.
The bill (S-2877) would prohibit the sale and distribution of liquid nicotine sold in a container intended for use in a vapor product unless it is sold in a container that meets current federal guidelines for child-resistant containers and special packaging testing requirements so that it is significantly difficult for a child five years or younger to open.
“Liquid nicotine is an extremely dangerous poison to children, and accidental exposure could have grave effects on their health and well-being,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “A majority of over 3,600 calls made to poison centers across the country in 2014 to report exposure involved children younger than six years old. This is an alarming call to action. We must do everything we can to prevent any tragedies from happening to the children of New Jersey.”
Liquid nicotine used to refill electronic cigarettes is sold in cartridges, vials, and small bottles that are not required to be childproof. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the amount of nicotine in some small 15-milliliter bottles of e-liquid is enough to kill four small children. E-cigarette and liquid nicotine-related calls to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) rose from nine in 2011 to 45 in 2014, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
“By requiring child-resistant containers for the sale of liquid nicotine in New Jersey, we can significantly reduce the great risk of children’s accidental exposure to this toxic substance that has already claimed the life of one child and has injured thousands of others,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex, Mercer). “This is a necessary measure, especially given the fact that liquid nicotine is often sold in bright colors and fruity flavors that can be appealing to a child’s wandering eye. We can’t wait for another tragedy before we act.”
New York passed a similar law following the death of an 18-month-old boy from Fort Plain after he accidentally drank liquid nicotine, making his death the first in New York and in the country attributed to liquid nicotine. Legislation calling for child-proof packaging of liquid nicotine is also advancing in Congress and in the U.S. Senate.
Under the bill, violations would be punishable by a civil penalty of not less than $250 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation, and $1,000 for the third and each subsequent violation. Additionally, upon recommendation of a municipality involved following a hearing by that municipality, the Division of Taxation in the Department of Treasury may suspend or revoke the license of a retail dealer for violations.
Liquid nicotine containers that would not be subject to this bill include those that are prefilled and sealed by a manufacturer, with the seal remaining permanently intact through retail purchase and use, those that are only disposable and not refillable, and those that are not intended to be opened by the consumer.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 38-0. It cleared the Assembly by a vote of 67-0. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.