E-cigarettes and children: Life-threatening combination

The electric cigarette, Shisha pen or Flavor Vapes are very popular among vapers, the users of e-cigarettes. The cigarettes do not contain tobacco and should therefore be healthier than regular cigarettes. However, it has been shown that nicotine filling can lead to life-threatening situations in children.


Electronic cigarettes run on batteries. They are available with a filling that only contains a flavor or a filling that also contains nicotine in addition to a flavor. The e-cigarette does not contain tobacco. The e-cigarette uses a heating element to evaporate the nicotine and other components. The user can then inhale this vapor by sucking on the mouthpiece, just like with a regular cigarette. However, the smoke subsequently blown out is not caused by tobacco combustion, but consists of water vapour. This is where the name ‘vapers’ used for e-cigarette users is derived. Because the e-cigarette does not contain tobacco, it should be a harmless substitute for the regular cigarette. However, research by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in 2013 has shown that e-cigarettes, just like regular cigarettes, are addictive and sometimes even contain carcinogenic substances such as nitrosamines and formaldehyde.

Not just benefits

Nicotine poisoning

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) warns about the danger of the liquid nicotine filling used for e-cigarettes. A child only needs to take a small sip of this to suffer serious nicotine poisoning. In the Netherlands, at least six reports were received in 2013 of children who suffered nicotine poisoning from the nicotine refill packs of e-cigarettes. Abroad, a child has even died from a nicotine overdose.

Harm to the unborn child

The NVWA indicates that e-cigarettes containing nicotine should not be used by pregnant women, because smoking them may release substances that are harmful to the unborn child. Nicotine passes through the placenta and is absorbed by the unborn child. Nicotine can be harmful to the lungs, heart and nervous system of the unborn child.

Harm in young children

The exhaled smoke from e-cigarettes with a nicotine ampoule may contain substances that are bad for young children.

Side effects

Agencies such as the RIVM indicate that the use of e-cigarettes has not yet been tested well enough to see whether there are really any health disadvantages to their use. Side effects that are known to occur in users are:

  • mouth and throat irritation
  • dry cough
  • dizziness
  • nausea

Age limit

When the e-cigarette was introduced, it could still be purchased by people of all ages. However, authorities at home and abroad are afraid that the use of e-cigarettes by young people will be used as a stepping stone to smoking regular cigarettes. In December 2013, the majority of the House of Representatives was in favor of raising the age limit for purchasing and using e-cigarettes to 18 years, so that it is equal to the age limit for purchasing tobacco and alcohol that applies from January 1, 2014.