It isn't regulated, so what's leading to more kids 'doing penguin?'
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There’s a new concern for parents trying to keep their kids on the straight and narrow.
High school administrators in Spokane, Washington say students in at least one high school are mixing liquid nicotine with juice and drinking it to get high.
It’s the same liquid used in e-cigarettes.
On the streets, it’s called “doing penguin” and it can be it can be fatal, says BC Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall.
“It’s really quite dangerous, depending on the dose. Nicotine is a toxic poison so swallowing the amount of nicotine that’s present in two cigarettes could be a lethal dose, depending on your weight. So these kids aren’t swallowing cigarettes but they are certainly swallowing variable amounts of nicotine. And that can be poisonous.”
The US Centre for Disease Control says poison control centers across the country get 400 calls a month related to liquid nicotine. Many are accidental cases but there a growing number of kids are doing penguin.
Poison centers in Washington saw calls related to liquid nicotine jump from two in 2010 to 170 last year.
The Surrey School District hasn’t seen any cases of it here and neither has Kendall. But he cautions that even if it’s not lethal, it’s still very dangerous.
“If you had a serious overdose with a coma and breathing and respiratory failure, you could get brain damage and organ damage. You could, if you took an awful lot of an overdose but not enough to kill you, actually be left quite severely disabled.”
There’s also the fact that e-cigarette liquid nicotine is unregulated.
“The vaping liquid is not a regulated industry so you would have no idea basically as to how much nicotine is in the fluids you were drinking,” says Kendall.
He’s also not sure why “doing penguin” is so popular.
“I doubt that they get much of a high from it. You’d likely get toxic symptoms before you felt much else,” says Kendall.