A spike in children being poisoned by nicotine
replacement products has prompted Dunedin toxicologists to
suggest the introduction of child-resistant packaging.
The number of calls received by the Dunedin-based National
Poisons Centre after children under the age of 6 had been
exposed to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) increased
almost 15-fold between 2004, when there were four calls, and
2011, when there were 59.
Nicotine poisoning can produce a range of symptoms, including
nausea and vomiting and, in extreme cases, death.
The centre raised the issue of children getting hold of NRT
products in a letter to the Journal of Paediatrics and Child
Health, in which it connected the spike in calls with a
dramatic increase in the amount of NRT products - including
gum, lozenges and patches - being sold.
Sales of the NRT products almost trebled between 2007, when
32.5 million single units were sold, and 2011, when 87.7
million were sold.
With most cases involving children being exposed to NRT
products in their homes, parents should be informed of ways
to prevent children from accessing them, the centre said in
''NRT products need to be stored out of the reach of children
and used products need to be disposed of appropriately.''
The centre also suggested the possibility of introducing
''Such containers are effective in reducing accidental
poisoning in children, and implementation of safety packaging
could potentially help to reduce paediatric NRT exposures.''
National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep, one of the
letter's authors, said he could not recall any ''nasty
cases'' and a common outcome was children were sent to
medical centres for observation as a precaution.
Occasionally, the child became pale and vomited, but in most
cases they were ''fine'', he said.
Nicotine poisoning was taken seriously and there was a low
threshold - for instance if a child chewed only one piece of
gum - at which it was recommended children should be taken to
the doctor for observation.
NRT products should not be stored in places like handbags, he