Practice English everyday with VOA Special English

Friday, June 20, 2014 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

E-Cigarettes Cause a Rise in Calls to US Poison Centers

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

Electronic cigarettes have been advertised as a safer choice for smokers than tobacco. E-cigarettes contain the drug nicotine, just like traditional cigarettes. But they do not use tobacco. And you do not light them. They operate on battery power.

Recently, poison control centers across the United States have reported an increase in telephone calls about e-cigarette poisoning. Most of the phone calls are from people worried about children who played with the devices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it received 215 calls about e-cigarette concerns last February. More than half were about children ages five and younger. The devices apparently had made them sick.

Tim MacAfee is director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. He says the federal government does not control e-cigarettes. Yet he confirms they contain liquid nicotine, a well-known danger. Mr. MacAfee adds that the most common way an individual gets poisoned by nicotine is when it gets onto the skin, in their eyes or is swallowed. Even a small amount, he says, can make a person sick. Nicotine poisoning can cause stomach pain and a feeling of unbalance. Headaches and seizures are also signs of nicotine poisoning.
Too much nicotine can kill.

E-cigarettes do not contain hundreds of harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. So, the US Surgeon General has suggested that e-cigarettes may be a useful tool for adult trying to end their tobacco dependency. But Tim McAfee worries that young people may think electronic cigarettes are harmless. They could become addicted and then start smoking real cigarettes.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.