Two recent studies showcase once more why children are the ones most often impacted by bad adult behavior. Last month, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released a report on the young victims of accidental poisonings from legal and illegal drugs. In 2016, more than 30,000 calls to poison control centers came in concerning toddlers and preschoolers unintentionally exposed. Dennis Thompson says most of the kids got into their parent’s or older sibling’s stashes of illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes, and prescription medications like opioids:

All signs indicate that an increasing number of young children are being accidentally poisoned by their parents’ pleasure products:

  • Calls to poison control centers about e-cigarettes increased more than 1,400 percent over just three years. Half of all calls related to e-cigarettes and 95 percent related to tobacco cigarettes involved children under the age of 5.
  • The number of young children exposed to alcohol has increased every year since 2012. Those aged 5 and younger account for about one of every four alcohol-related calls to a poison center.
  • The rate of marijuana exposure among young children increased by 148 percent over an eight-year period. Children younger than 3 accounted for 78 percent of these calls to a poison center, most often from ingesting a marijuana edible.
  • Exposures to prescription opioids increased 93 percent each year over a nine-year period, a rate that corresponds with the progression of America’s opioid epidemic. About half of ER visits among kids aged 5 and younger are linked with prescription drug exposure, with opioids like Oxycontin and Vicodin and benzodiazepines like Xanax the most common.


It’s understandable why young children might find these substances attractive:

E-cigarettes are packaged with colorful designs and fun flavors, she said. Alcoholic beverages are mixed with fruit flavors and sold in cans resembling soda and juice.

The most disturbing trend involves marijuana products in states that have legalized recreational or medicinal use, Richter said. Dispensaries sell marijuana edibles in forms that would appeal greatly to young children — cookies, brownies and candies such as gummy worms.

“They’re made to look like other kinds of candy that kids like,” Richter said.


A study in this month’s issue of Pediatrics finds that while tobacco smoking in American homes has declined — in 2002, 27.6% of parents smoked versus 20.2% in 2015 — cannabis use has increased from 4.9% to 6.8% over the same time period. The researchers found that cigarette smokers were more likely than non-smokers to use weed:

Cannabis use increased from 11.0% in 2002 to 17.4% in 2015 among cigarette-smoking parents and from 2.4% to 4.0% among non–cigarette-smoking parents[…] Cannabis use was nearly 4 times more common among cigarette smokers versus nonsmokers[…], as was daily cannabis use.


The study’s lead author thinks her data may complicate efforts to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in children:

“Efforts to decrease secondhand smoke exposure via cigarette smoking cessation may be complicated by increases in cannabis use,” said Goodwin. “Educating parents about secondhand cannabis smoke exposure should be integrated into public health education programs on secondhand smoke exposure.”


And now there are concerns about thirdhand smoke. We’ll talk about that tomorrow on The PediaBlog.


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