Children Eating Cigarettes Has Poisonous Results

During National Poison Prevention Week, March 14–20, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department joins the Environmental Protection Agency in warning the public that cigarettes and cigarette butts may poison children who eat them. In 2007, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) received more than 7,735 reports of children under 6 years old getting poisoned by eating cigarettes or chewing tobacco.According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rhode Island Department of Health, children in households where cigarettes are smoked were four times more likely to eat cigarettes or cigarette butts than in households where smoking does not occur around children. This happens most often in homes where children are exposed to smoke and where cigarettes and ashtrays are kept within the reach of children.

“Children 6 months to 24 months old are active and exploring everything around them and often put things into their mouths. It is very important that parents, families and babysitters always store cigarettes, cigarette butts or chewing tobacco out of the reach of children and that they do not smoke around children because of the danger to their child’s health,” said Lea Johnson, a Nurse Supervisor in the Strengthening Families Program at Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. Vomiting, nausea, sleepiness, gagging, and a pale or flushed face and skin may happen when children swallow cigarettes. The health effects might include slowed breathing, irregular heartbeats and seizures. If a child does eat tobacco, call the Washington Poison Control Center immediately at (800) 222-1222 to learn what medical treatment is needed for serious poisoning.

In addition to preventing poisonings, not using tobacco products around children, should help to:

  • Reduce the number of colds, bronchitis and middle ear infections in children
  • Lower the number of children that will smoke in the future
  • Lessen children’s contact with lighted cigarettes, matches, and cigarette lighters, which will reduce the number of fires started by children—a leading cause of death of children under 5 years old

Parents and guardians who want to quit smoking should seek their doctor’s advice or call the Washington State Quit Line at 800-QUIT-NOW for information and support to quit smoking.