This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The electronic cigarettes that are currently all the rage may contain much more nicotine than their labels show. Or much less.

That's the finding of a new study by the Salt Lake County Health Department and the Center for Human Toxicology at the University of Utah, a health department news release said.

Researchers found that 61 percent of the e-cigarettes they bought at 14 vape shops and 16 tobacco specialty stores had nicotine levels at least 10 percent higher or lower than the label showed.

The industry's own American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association requires that nicotine content be within 10 percent of the labeled content, the health department said.

Seventy-three of the 120 samples had nicotine content that veered from its packaging by as much as 88 percent less than the label to 840 percent more.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquids, usually including nicotine, into an aerosol inhaled by the user.

They are promoted as a healthier alternative and an aid for quitting tobacco cigarettes, but there is debate over their safety. Health departments throughout Utah have started regulating e-cigarettes, mostly by trying to keep them away from minors.

More than a quarter of e-cigarettes listed as having nicotine (33 claimed to have none) did not have child-proof caps, the review found.

The health department says e-cigarettes are a poisoning threat to children; the Utah Poison Control Center had 131 calls related to e-cigarettes last year.

Salt Lake County Health Department managers launched the study because they're considering a new regulation requiring a license to make or sell e-cigarettes in the county.

Kathy Garrett, the department's tobacco prevention and cessation manager, said consumers should know how much nicotine they're getting.

"It's also a real concern for poison control center and emergency room staff, who don't know if the labeled amount of nicotine in a bottle a child has ingested is accurate," she said in the news release. "That makes this a life-or-death problem."

Twitter: @KristenMoulton

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