Child Proof Caps That Aren’t So Child-Proof
While much of the concern about e-liquid poisonings is driven by over-exaggerating the implications of the figures from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), there is some truth hiding under the hysteria.
Nicotine, although not as poisonous as once thought, is still a very poisonous substance, and not something you want children or pets getting their hands (or paws) on. However, in many cases, the child-proofing on e-liquids is inadequate, and even when it isn’t inadequate, it’s essential to realize that nothing is really “child-proof” and extra caution is always required.
Here’s a quick guide to the child-proofing used on e-liquid bottles and some tips on keeping your family safe.
Child-Resistant vs. Child Proof
The most important thing to realize about “child-proof” packaging is that it should really be called “child resistant.” The definition of what constitutes child-resistant comes from the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, which basically states that child-resistant packaging “must be designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open within a reasonable time, and not difficult for normal adults to use properly.”
The wording here tells you everything you need to know: it’s “significantly difficult” but not impossible, and it’s “within a reasonable time” and not if left unsupervised for hours. Right away, it’s obvious that children can and do get into child-resistant packages. The specific definition says that 85 percent of tested children aged under 5 years old must not be able to open the package within five minutes. Again, this drives home the point that 15 percent of them (more than one in six) can open the package in less than five minutes.
Since these standards were developed with medicines in mind, one concern was that making packages too difficult to open (as early child-resistant packages were) would prevent seniors from being able to access their medications. So, in practice, child-resistant cap design is a trade-off between difficulty for children to open and ease of opening for the elderly. E-liquids may be primarily used by younger adults, but the same basic designs carry over.
Which E-Liquid Bottles are Child Resistant?
Standard Glass Dripper Bottles
Ordinary glass e-liquid bottles do not have child-resistant packaging. The standard for glass dripper bottles is a screw-on cap with a glass dripper attached to the bottom, which require nothing more than a counter-clockwise turn to open. It’s fairly obvious that this doesn’t stand much chance of stopping a child intent on getting inside the bottle – so long as he or she has learned to unscrew things. Not every child would jump right to trying to unscrew it, but research indicates it’s one of the most common strategies used by kids when confronted with a closed container. Some e-liquid companies don’t include drippers with their bottles, but the caps are similarly designed, requiring only unscrewing to open.
The only thing these glass bottles may be expected to provide some protection for is pets, where the glass construction makes them harder to access by simply biting. However, if chewed, the soft rubber bulbs that allow you to suck e-liquid up into the dripper can be pulled off.
Plastic Dripper-Top Bottles
The most common type of e-liquid bottle is the squeezable plastic bottle with a dripper spout covering the mouth of the bottle. The caps for these are two-piece plastic caps (an outer and an inner section), which work in the same way as many medicine caps: they’re opened by pushing down and then turning counter-clockwise. This does provide some child-resistance, since screwing the cap without also pushing down accomplishes nothing, but it must be said that it isn’t exactly the best approach either, especially since the difficulty in opening them can vary from one e-liquid company to the next.
For pets, these bottles are less desirable, since the plastic construction can be chewed and pierced.
Black Note’s Glass Bottles
We take the best of both worlds to make our e-liquid bottles child and pet-resistant: the push-down and twist benefit of the plastic bottles and the sturdiness of the glass. Our bottle-caps look a little more like those on medicines; with an outer plastic shell on the cap that turns freely (without unscrewing) when it isn’t being firmly pushed down. So kids will struggle a little more to unscrew the cap, and the main source of vulnerability to pets is from specifically chewing on the cap or the rubber bulb of the dripper.
Child Resistant Cigarette Packs?
We take child-proofing seriously, and wholeheartedly support anything that can be done to improve e-liquid bottles and bring down the number of poisonings attributed to e-cigarettes and liquids. However, the AAPCC’s reports make it abundantly clear that cigarettes poison a lot more kids than e-cigarettes (PDF, page 203). In a sense, this isn’t particularly surprising. Demands for child-proof packaging for e-liquids are common, and in many cases legislation has been enacted to serve this purpose – but for cigarettes, child-proofing is entirely absent. Given that the amount of nicotine in a single cigarette is very similar to the amount in 1 ml of e-liquid and that cigarettes poison more kids than e-cigarettes, it’s shocking that no mention is made of the benefits of instituting child-proofing for them too.
How to Avoid E-Liquid Poisonings
So it’s clear that even when child-resistant packaging is present, children can get into e-liquids. We may have discussed the different approaches to making something child-resistant, but really, the most important thing is how we adults store our e-liquids. If you store a non-child-resistant e-liquid bottle responsibly, no children will be poisoned by it, and if you’re completely irresponsible with a substantially child-resistant bottle, there’s a good chance that (at least eventually) your kid will get into it and be poisoned.
The most basic advice is to keep your e-liquid out of reach of children and pets. All you need is a high cupboard or shelf, or a lockable box, and you can rest easy that your kids or pets won’t be able to get at your e-liquids. The child-resistant cap then serves the role it should: a last resort protection against tragedy. If your storage location is dependable, the fact that child-resistant caps aren’t perfect isn’t much of an issue. However, you should still make sure the caps are screwed on firmly and securely, just in case your first-line of defense fails and you come to rely on them.
For the juice you’re using, keeping it locked away is obviously impractical, but you shouldn’t leave it unattended with children or pets in the room – unless you have a suitably inaccessible spot to put it. If you’re vigilant and keep it with you at all times, there is pretty much no risk of kids or pets getting access to it.
The tl;dr version is: e-liquid is poisonous and child-resistant caps aren’t 100 percent secure, so always be cautious.
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