A doctor has likened electronic cigarettes to methadone after two children were treated at an emergency department in the Republic of Ireland for liquid nicotine poisoning.
Dr Chris Luke, a consultant at Cork’s Mercy University Hospital emergency department said the children were treated at the hospital having been poisoned by liquid nicotine, which is present in e-cigarettes.
The battery-powered devices resemble cigarettes and deliver nicotine through inhaled vapour. Although e-cigarettes emit chemical-free steam, they have raised the issue of a lack of regulation for the new product, designed to help people quit smoking.
Dr Luke said the contents of many e-cigarettes can be fruit-flavoured, which makes them tempting for children.
He urged people using e-cigarettes to take extreme care around children.
"Nicotine itself is very poisonous and potentially addictive...And the liquid in e-cigarettes is very caustic and burning if it gets onto your skin," he said. "It's potentially very toxic for children in very small amounts, (as little as) half a teaspoonful."
The doctor added, “I would remind people of the alleged attractions of methadone, mephedrone and zopiclone, all of which have been recently championed as ‘healthier’ substitutes for legal and illegal drugs of addiction, with often tragic consequences." 
Last year, there were 1,300 cases in the US of poisoning by ‘e-liquid’ — a 300% increase on the year previous. The American National Poison Data System has said it expects the numbers to double this year.