Choosing (How To Avoid) Your Poison

President Obama has signed into law a regulation involving ecigarette juice, to protect young children from hazard. As many of you may recall, I support ecigarette regulation that makes the product safer without impeding the industry that helped me quit smoking, though I am suspicious of regulation for the sake of regulation, based on undemonstrated and/or unrealistic fears, and for the sake of “getting tough on big tobacco.” I fear we’re headed more in the direction of the latter than the former, but time will tell.

I believe in the greater hierarchy of things to be feared by consumer products, much of the concern around ejuice poisoning is not especially justified. People don’t seem to understand how incredibly awful the stuff tastes. I don’t mean it tastes a bit unpleasant, like sour or something. We’re talking about a level of pleasantness somewhere between soap and gasoline. The nicotine actually stings the tongue. I’m not saying that no child anywhere would ever do this, but it is not the attractive nuisance that people are lead to believe.

That being said, I support regulation to address this. It may not be the hazard some are making it out to be, but it seems to me to be a hazard that can be avoided with relatively minimal negative impact on the producers and the product. The regulation that passed, however, may make things worse rather than better.

ejuiceI get my ejuice from three sources: Halo, Bulk E-Juice, and Totally Wicked. You can see the Halo bottles to the left, and Bulk to the right. The Halo bottle has a child-proof cap that Lain would not be able to easily open. She would have to know to push it down and twist it, which is probably enough to satisfy the safety standards. In order to get the juice into the device, it has a dripper underneath. For Bulk, the lid comes off by simply twisting it, and has a squirter below to get the juice into the device. Lain would be able to get the cap off without any problem whatsoever. Totally Wicked has a child-proof cap (you have to squeeze the sides and twist) and a squirter.

While the regulation targets the Bulk containers, I am far more worried about something happening in the Halo bottle than the Bulk. Underneath the lid, the Halo bottle is completely open. Once she gets into the Halo bottle, she could just chug-a-lug it before realizing exactly how awful it tastes. A week ago I would have keep skeptical of her ability to get into the bottle, but parenthood is a series of revelations on what the little ones can’t and then suddenly can do. For the Bulk bottle, she would have to squirt it in her mouth, which I’m not sure she has the strength to do. And if she did, I suspect she would immediately discover that it really tastes awful and she would move on. She could decide to keep going, but there are 100 things in this house she could decide to ingest that worry me more. In order to chug the Bulk juice, she would have to get the squirter off, which I myself can’t do without a thin instrument like a butter knife. So, I’m not worried about the Bulk and kind of worried about Halo.

ejuice-openIn preparation for the law, I suppose, Bulk seems to be offering alternative packaging for their juice. I ordered some yesterday and will report the results, but it looks like they’re moving towards Halo-like bottles (it’s described as “child-proof cap with dripper”). Which means that it will be trading less safe (to my eye) packaging for more safe packaging. Which might make this reglation a net hazard instead of a net benefit. It’s hard to say.

What would have been ideal is to require both child-proof capping and a squirt insertion system (or something similar). This is what Totally Wicked does, and it is by far the product that I am least worried about.

So, I’m not positive that they thought this through as well as they should have. It could be that I am wrong about the comparative hazard. It could be that they just didn’t think this through. It could be that passing a law was more important to them than what the law actually did. Ultimately, though, the responsibility for all of this is going to fall on vapers with young children in the house. Which is, regulation or no, how it was always going to be.

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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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46 thoughts on “Choosing (How To Avoid) Your Poison

  1. Regarding what kids will get into, it is always far far FAR more then parents guess. Many years ago i worked with a family where the 4 or 5 year old managed to light a hand held blow torch the dad left laying around. It had the metal spark maker thingee and you had to turn the gas on as i remember the mom telling me. The kid was a handful but the parents were baffled that the kid lit it and started to chase his sibs around. Even more of a problem was they left it around after that and he lit it again, hence one of the reasons CPS was called out and i worked with them.

    But a good rule of thumb is parents are the worst judges of what their kids can get into.


    • That was the lesson from a couple weeks ago, when Lain got into some Skittles with some scissors. We were at once proud of her industriousness and rather concerned about the ramifications of her rapidly increasing skillset.

      But this makes me a bit more concerned about the regulation suite. How many parents are going to think that they’re ejuice is not a threat because of ineffectual childproof caps without regarding the fact that if they do get in the child can drink it in seconds.

      The definition of “childproof” is that it takes a kid more than five minutes to get into it (or something along those lines). With the Bulk, she could get the cap off easily but consuming the whole thing would take more time. (And Totally Wicked has it covered on both fronts. So good for them!)


      • The goal is that by the time the kid can get into this stuff, the kid will also have the cognitive capacity to understand an explanation of why random chemicals are dangerous. I think I have told the story of the time my older one had a toy twirling baton that had water with sparklies inside. She broke it open to drink the water. What kid wouldn’t, with those alluring sparklies? It was mostly just water but various hydrocarbons from the plastic had leached into it, and she was undergoing some respiratory distress. This rated a trip to the emergency room (and I have to give credit: walk into the ER carrying a toddler while explaining she is undergoing respiratory distress after ingesting an unknown liquid, and you get prompt service). Ever since then, whenever the topic of potentially hazardous chemicals arises, I need only mention “baton water.”


  2. How many kids have gotten seriously ill / died from drinking this crap?

    Is this stuff considered a “controlled substance”?

    Assuming both questions are answered none/few and no I see no reason for any regulation.


  3. I would also be concerned about the labeling, particularly of the product on the right. I get that they want their products to have shelf appeal or whatever and that branding matters and all that, but they should be able to make something appealing to adults that doesn’t look like a kid’s juice pack.

    And, yea, kids can get into things like you wouldn’t believe. Mayo (turns 3 in April) popped the top off a child-proof prescription bottle like it was nothing; it was the type you have to press down and twist to remove. Thank goodness I was right there when it happened.

    It would seem that effective, common sense child-safety standards on these containers is good regulation. The question is whether these qualify as common sense. From Will’s assessment, it seems the answer is somewhere between, “No,” and “Not as effective or common sense as they could be.”


    • The old Bulk (right) bottles were comparatively plain*. I hadn’t thought about the “attractive nuisance” aspect of it, but I did really like that it was utilitarian. The new ones are colorful and the text on them harder to read. Because of that, and degradation, I’m thinking about printing my own labels.

      Lain actually seems more fascinated by the Halo (left) bottles. When I clean them out for re-use, she tries to grab at them. She’s never shown much interest in the Bulk bottles, before or after the facelift.

      * – If you click on the image of the two, you can see the whole set. Some of the old Bulk bottles are visible and you can compare. Totally Wicked bottle (the red one) also visible. “Evo” is a Halo brand and basically the same style of bottle.


  4. I got the package mentioned in the OP. Sure enough, the Childproof Dropper is an open, chugalug container once you get the cap off.

    I also got a freebie flavor called Exotic Sensations. As a Republican and Episcopalian, I’m not sure I approve.


  5. With stuff like this, it’s a numbers game. Yeah, some kids are going to be able to pop the top off a child-proof cap. But fewer kids than can pop the top off a non-child proof cap.

    So saying “Stick a child-proof cap on it” (which is a simple thing, an already solved engineering problem that doesn’t require any research — just a quick redesign of a cap to already existing designs, so not a giant imposition) will keep some non-trivial number of kids out of the stuff.

    Since we use that sort of cap to secure drugs, poisons, and other things that can flat out kill a kid even easier than a ejuice, it’s apparently working well enough. I mean if it didn’t, we have a lot more dead kids from getting into bleach, prescriptions, rat poison, anti-freeze, whatever.

    The solution being applied is, for lack of a better term, the “accepted solution to keep kids out of crap” solution.

    Maybe that’s not sufficient, but if it isn’t…isn’t it insufficient for lots and lots of things? Which makes something other than just an ejuice problem.


    • This doesn’t really address my concern, which is that the design with childproof caps are often more dangerous under the hood than those without childproof caps. And that the potential danger of the latter may outstrip the benefit of the former. Which might make this regulation actually counter-productive rather than just not as effective as it could be.

      I understand the “something is better than nothing” argument, but that’s not true if the result is that they move to bottling with greater hazard potential.


      • To give an example of “under the cap” I added a picture of the new Bulk bottle and the old, with the cap removed. It might be easier to remove the cap on the left one, but once removed it’s a lot harder to consumer large quantities.

        (Credit again to the Totally Wicked bottles, which are both childproof capped and not as potentially hazardous under the cap.)


      • Yeah I get you and I’m all for even better security here, but the thing is — if you’re right, aren’t you also right for every other liquid hazard secured just by the child-proof cap?

        If, statistically, this is going to be an issue (this makes ejuice containers less secure rather than more), would that also not be true of bleach, anti-freeze, and liquid medications which are also often secured with just a child-proof cap?


        • Sure, but I don’t know how to avoid it with bleach. With bleach, you kind of need the ability to disburse a lot of it quickly. I mean, I’m not sure how a squirt system would work with bleach. Here, though, you are only injecting a little at a time. So there is an opportunity that’s available. that opportunity may be available for other things as well.

          This is not something I’m going to lose sleep over, to be sure. And it’s a point that vapers have made over and over and over again, that for all of the fears over ejuice consumption there are 100 things more dangerous in any given house. But this seems like it might be a step backwards for this particular hazard.


          • I’d imagine because of heavy faith in child-proof caps. Like I said, it’s not like the regulation went with something new — it went with the standard solution to “We’d really like kids not to drink this”.

            I’m having a hard time thinking that it’s a step backwards, because it’s not a unique solution. If it was less safe than a dropper system, I suspect we’d have found that out due to all the kids bypassing the child-safe caps and guzzling…whatever.

            Now whether it’s optimal? Probably not — you made an excellent case for doing both, for instance.

            But when it comes down to regulation, I’m just not sure I can find much fault with “Let’s use the standard solution that appears to work just fine for all liquids we don’t want kids in. And also pills. And anything, really”.


            • This. Childproof caps work because they work across contexts. However, if you have to think about the specific use of each item being secured by a childproof cap, you’re going to end up with a much more heavy handed and less effective (because they can get to fewer items) state of regulation. Good enough is a thing.


            • You might say that childproof caps work better as signaling than as physical protection. If something has a childproof cap, then that says to the user “this is serious stuff and you shouldn’t let children get ahold of it”, and they are more likely to put it where children can’t access it.


                • Except, it’s not.

                  I’m getting old, sadly, and I’m frickin’ tired of child proof caps, which by FEDERAL law, must be used on any shipment via the mails, for ANY prescription. So my choice is to get a 30 day supply at the pharmacy and not get child proof caps, or have them and save a boatload of cash by getting them mail order. Why should I have to make that decision? The stuff being sent to me is common, not narcotic, only damaging if you swallow the whole bottle, comes sealed in MORE containers, and I don’t have kids in the house. I doubt that there are kids working in the USPS either.


        • Oh, I think the actual hazard potential here is pretty minor with any kind of packaging. The hysteria was drummed up by calls to the CDC. Not a high number of calls, even, just more than there were before the market exploded (fathom that).

          But as a parent you worry about such things, and if we’re going to worry, I know which I’m more worried about.


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