Beware of accidental ingestion of heated tobacco products by infants
Since the launch of heated tobacco products, the number of sales has increased in recent years. Heated tobacco products (hereinafter called "HTPs") are new tobacco products that work by electrically heating tobacco leaves instead of burning them to generate aerosols, which are inhaled by users.
On the other hand, there have been some reports of accidental ingestion of a tobacco section of used or unused HTPs: 9 reports received by the Medical Facilities Network 1 and 2 reports received by PIO-NET 2 since the fiscal year 2016. Of these, 10 reports included victim's age and all of the victims were infants aged 17 months or younger.
It is predictable that further spread of HTPs may increase incidents of accidental ingestion of a tobacco section thereof. Therefore, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (hereinafter called "NCAC") decided to examine risks from accidental ingestion of a heated tobacco stick or capsule (hereinafter called "sticks, etc.") to share the findings and issue an alert to consumers.
- 1 The Medical Facilities Network is a joint project by the Consumer Affairs Agency and NCAC which started operating from Dec. 2010. The network collects accident reports on people receiving treatment at medical facilities after suffering life-threatening or bodily injuries in their daily lives. The above data includes reports registered from FY2012 through the end of September 2017.
- 2 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network. The above number was specially counted for this press release. The data includes cases registered from FY2012 through the end of September 2017.
Main findings from examination of HTPs
Shape and size
- A stick or capsule of all the brands was in a shape that may be accidentally ingested by a child. Nine out of twelve were small enough to easily fit into a child's mouth.
Amount of nicotine in tobacco leaves
- Each tobacco section of any of the brands contained nicotine in an amount which may cause vomiting.
Labeling and representation
- Caution messages about accidental ingestion were not labeled on any package for sticks, etc. of the brands.
- Caution messages like "Keep out of reach of children" were labeled on all the packages for main units of the brands.
- Caution messages about accidental ingestion were shown on websites run by the distributors of six brands (type 1), but these kinds of messages were not shown on websites run by the distributors of other six brands (type 2).
Advice for consumers
- An unused stick or capsule for HTPs contains nicotine in an amount which may cause toxic symptoms. Keep sticks, etc. out of reach of children before and after use. Carefully store and dispose of them.
- If an infant accidentally ingests a heated tobacco stick, etc., take the infant to a hospital right away, without giving the infant milk or water.
Requests to businesses
- NCAC requests distributors to improve the design of packets for heated tobacco sticks, etc. so that infants cannot easily take contents out.
- NCAC requests distributors to further raise consumer awareness of precautions related to storage and disposal of sticks, etc. through product labeling and websites to prevent accidental ingestion by infants.