E-Liquids = The New Murder Weapon!

Cig_a_like--_2013-10-21_03-47For all the wonders of the technological age of today, there are times when life-enhancing advances can turn sinister. One such example is the evolution of e-cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes were first patented in 1963. The mechanism simulates smoking a real cigarette by using a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution contained within the device. Most solutions consist of a mixture of nicotine and flavorings, while others contain flavors without nicotine.

Initially, many e-cigarettes were disposable devices that looked like conventional cigarettes. As the technology progressed, reusable units became available. TheseLava_size_02 improved mechanisms could be refilled with solutions that contained varying combinations of nicotine, flavorings and solvents. They were more cost effective, achieved greater public acceptance and offered a variety of flavor choices.

The down side to all the improvements, however, is that now we have a dangerous, and even deadly, powerful stimulant on the market—liquid concentrated nicotine (e-liquid). It’s made in factories and even in the back rooms of shops, and it’s sold legally in stores and online. The solutions are available for sale by the vial, the liter, by the gallon and even by the barrel.

The normal nicotine levels in sealed, disposable e-cigarettes used to be 1.8% to 2.4%. But the new liquids used in these reusable devices are available in 7.2%, and even up to 10% concentrated solutions. Interestingly, it’s the higher concentrations that are available in the largest quantities on the Internet—with sizes ranging from one liter to a gallon for consumer use and up to a 55-gallon drum for manufacturing purposes, all with little regulatory oversight.

Some of the packaging for consumer use incorporates childproof bottles and warning labels, but many of the products coming from overseas—particularly from China—do not include such safety standards, and the FDA does not yet regulate the manufacture and distribution of nicotine-containing e-liquids.

Nicotine, in this most potent liquid form, not only supplies the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry but it also is evolving into a new recreational drug category.

The popular nicotine concentrates produce a stimulating high, yet are powerful neurotoxins. A teaspoonful of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child. One of the reasons these e-liquids are so deadly is that they are absorbed more quickly through the GI tract than other substances.

Additionally, the nicotine solutions are readily absorbed through the pores of the skin. Recently, a Kentucky woman was admitted to the hospital with severe cardiac issues after her e-cigarette broke in her bed. The e-liquid spilled and absorbed quickly through her skin, causing a life-threatening cardiac event.

MH900437315One of the problems with the concept of e-liquids is that adults do not seem to understand the risks involved in exposure to these concentrated solutions and carelessly leave the containers unprotected around the house. Between 2012 and 2013, there has been a 300% jump in the number of calls to poison control centers related to liquid nicotine overdoses, and the number is on pace to double this year. There has even been a documented suicide death by an adult who injected liquid nicotine.

Lee Cantrell, a professor of pharmacy at the University of California and the director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System, stated, “It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed. It’s a matter of when. This is one of the most potent, naturally-occurring toxins we have and its sold all over the place.”

Liquid, concentrated nicotine (e-liquid) provides an interesting opportunityMH900241229 for murder mystery writers to utilize a powerful neurotoxin that is poorly regulated, readily available and one that can easily be injected or incorporated into food, drink or on clothing to produce a rather dramatic, yet stealthy, murder scene.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Writing, All About Murder, All About Writing, Blogging, Concentrated Liquid Nicotine, Cryptococcus Infection Outbreak, Drug Abuse, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used to Murder, E-Liquids, Electronic Cigarettes, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Murder by E-Liquid Overdose, Murder By Nicotine Overdose, Murder Weapons, Murder With Drugs, Nicotine and Murder, Nicotine Used For Murder, Party Drugs, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poisons Used to Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Art of Writing, Tools of Murder, Ways To Kill, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Murder Scenes Using Concentrated Nicotine Liquid and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to E-Liquids = The New Murder Weapon!

  1. wrLapinsky says:

    At least you can’t set your house on fire with an e-cigarette. In addition to an unregulated, dangerous and readily available poison, the reusable units themselves provide a means for your character to deliver almost any other poison to the victim at some later time, when your killer has a perfect alibi.

  2. The most frightening aspects of this are how careless users are with this deadly substance, and the lack of regulatory oversight. We can be certain users coming to grief will almost certainly blame someone else for their misadventures. Great story, James, as always.

  3. vereybowring says:

    This is a joke then ?
    You need to do some research rather than scare stories from newspapers which aren’t very well researched.
    I suggest you go read nicotinepolicy.net and educate yourself about the subject.
    There you may find that nicotine is not nearly as toxic as you imagine.
    Also the 7.2 to 10% concentrations are what is purchased to mix finished liquids, not what users actually inhale.
    A little research could go a long way.

    It must be said though a small quantity of neurotoxin introduced into a users liquid would be extremely effective in murder. As for nicotine a woman attempted to commit suicide by ingesting 1500 mg of it and apart from some me recovering in hospital didn’t even have any damage.

  4. jack says:

    My wife and 15 year old daughter wants me to smoke again , because the loved it when I was always hacking up a lung , black oysters in the garbage , etc, they loved it when they would go somewhere and people said that they smelt like a ashtray . I miss the good old days when I couldn’t breathe and had to use a inhaler , or when I would have a ciggy during my grandparents funeral , they smoked too.
    Then I woke up from the nightmare and realized that I haven’t smoked, since fathers day 2011.
    Glad big Pharma didn’t invent these , because then they would cost about 100.00 a week , wait , they do and I think it’s called nicatrol , a inhaler that has the same ingredients as them ecigs , PG, VG, niotine, and even more stuff that I cannot pronounce. 1/100th % is the average percent of actual nicotine in e – liquid , but with no burning, I get no tar, or the thousands of the carcinogens.
    Question , why have I not had any sickness since spring of 2011?

  5. Carl V Phillips says:

    Pure nicotine as a murder weapon for a story works. You can spray someone with a toxic dose (note: the absorption has nothing to do with pores — it penetrates the skin) or perhaps get enough into food (though that is less promising because gastric absorption is poor and vomiting is likely). E-cigarette liquid (a 1% or maybe 3% nicotine solution — they higher concentrations are largely mythical) would be almost impossible to use for that purpose, though. The quantity needed is enormous and dermal absorption is so slow that you would need to restrain someone to keep enough of it on them (in which case, it seems like a rather complicated way to finish the murder). The numbers you are quoting about e-cigarette liquid are complete fiction — see http://antithrlies.com/2014/03/24/new-york-times-goes-more-at-1100-with-story-on-ecigs-and-poisoning/

    The conventional wisdom about 60mg of nicotine being fatal has been obviously wrong for a long time. The real fatal dose is in the range of 1000mg, which is a lot to deliver to someone involuntarily. It is pretty much impossible if it is coming in the form of a few-percent solution.

  6. Elaine Keller says:

    Consumers are much more careless with traditional tobacco products. Take chewing tobacco: 981 exposures overall, 869 in children younger than 6 years; conventional tobacco cigarettes (the kind you must set on fire) 5,700 exposures overall, 5,313 in children younger than 6; for cigars the numbers are 49 and 43, for snuff 415 and 332. These are the stats for 2012, the most recent report available to the public from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. For Electronic Cigarettes Device and/or Cartridge Containing Nicotine, the numbers are 427 and 168, and for Electronic Cigarettes Nicotine Liquid, the numbers are 11 and 4. The Category Total for all products is 8,804 single exposures, with 7,480 among children under age 6. So when you deduct the two electronic cigarette line items, you are left with 8,366 exposures for conventional tobacco products and 7,308 among children under age 6. The only reason the number of exposures is growing in the electronic cigarette line items is because the sales of these products have sky-rocketed since 2012. Many of the calls poison control centers received about electronic cigarettes may just be from people asking questions because of the CDC’s scaremongering stories. Not all calls are a report of an injury. And also keep in mind that there has only been one death, and that was of an adult who committed suicide. It is extremely difficult for oral intake of nicotine to result in death because oral ingestion of nicotine triggers vomiting, which purges the toxin from the body. Thus to succeed in killing himself, the man decided to inject the nicotine liquid into his veins.

  7. castello2 says:

    E-cigs can save millions from the harm of smoke!

  8. It seems as if this blog has created some controversy and I appreciate all the comments from Vereybowring, Jack, Carl, Elaine and Castillo2. I have read the links that have been suggested by Carl and the controversy continues.
    Thanks for your comments. The subject was researched well and, if I sensationalized any part of the subject, it was to present it as a weapon of murder. The opportunity to use this vehicle in a murder scene continues to be viable, especially if additional toxins are added to the mix. All the best!

  9. msugar13 says:

    Just discovered your blog and I can’t get enough of it. Brilliant find for me. I haven’t been blogging in almost a year (finishing my novel & my day job), but I still read as many blogs as I can. I stopped commenting a while back because the blog author would usually, click on the name of my blog or my name or avatar and land on what appears to be an abandoned blog and I figured my comment wouldn’t be given much weight b/c I’m no longer part of the blogging community.

    I made an exception after reading this post, which incidentally has triggered my desire to blog and comment again, so thank you for that. I have such mixed emotions about the e-cigs. First of all, I initially believed they were destined to become the magical cure for the addiction to smoking (not nicotine, but the smoking fixation.) My mother is 72 and needed major back surgery, but the surgeon refused to operate unless she quit. She is the one person I believed would smoke up until her own funeral. She bought something called the PIgCig -the thing is huge and I don’t even want to go into what it looks like when this sophisticated, refined, petite socialite is puffing away on her gigantic pig-cig when people see her at a traffic light. It doesn’t help that for the maximum jolt of tobacco vapor, you must press a button on the device and the easiest way to accomplish this is by holding the apparatus in between your index finger and thumb with remaining fingers extended upward. Long story short (yea right, you are thinking, nothing short about this chick’s comment,) it’s been nearly a year and dear old mom who started smoking at age fourteen (yup, 14), hasn’t picked up a cigarette. So, yes, technically she is still inhaling tobacco and still suffers the addiction, she is getting it without most of the more dangerous ingredients that you inhale with a traditional cigarette.

    Second story: My husband is seventy (yes, I realize that makes him my mother’s age,) is in very poor health, numerous heart attacks, has advanced COPD and a host of other medical issues and this man, a defense attorney, the strongest person I know with more will power than anyone I’ve met, just cannot or will not quit killing himself with cigarettes. A week ago he jumped on the e-cig trending bandwagon and hasn’t smoked another cigarette. Now his e-cig is completely different from my mom’s and the others I’ve seen, that have a battery and a cartridge. My husband’s e-cig doesn’t have the cartridge that provides the tobacco, his has this liquid vile you wrote about in your blog post. My disturbed mind (always brainstorming cool ways to kill someone for a book) immediately went to work on my next fictional victim meeting his demise through his e-cig. Poor guy finally quits smoking only to succumb to death by his e-cig. The plot potential had me giddy.

    Third Story: We have teenage daughters and our oldest is a seventeen year old junior in high school at a public magnet school. Her school allows the e-cigs on campus – they claim that they cannot ban water vapor. I don’t know why they can’t; the airlines had no problem with it. So we asked our other high school daughters and were shocked to learn that all of them – good kids who we hoped would never smoke because we have preached about the consequences for as long as they can remember, these good kids and their friends have been hanging out at what has become the trendy and cool place to be, they hang out at “Vapor bars,” and even have “Vapor hangouts,” on campus and other areas around town. These are bright kids with big futures ahead of them, straight A’s, cheerleaders, community and youth group leaders, student counsel and youth government, active members of their church youth groups and clubs and organizations dedicated to community service work and they are “vaping,” at vapor bars. I was flabbergasted and started planning the cruel and painful death of the victim of my next story, the person allowing kids to partake in Vaping, but of course can’t kill that many people in one story, can I?

    We don’t know the long term consequences of e-cigarettes and yes, we know that they produce vapor water rather than smoke, but for all we know we will find out twenty years from now that it is far more harmful than smoking cigarettes and working in asbestos ridden buildings.

    Wow, that was a long comment. I apologize. I am glad I found your blog and I promise that in the future I will drastically shorten the length of comments.

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