CHICAGO (CBS) — Eighteen elementary school students became ill Wednesday, and 16 of them were taken to the hospital, after apparently ingesting nicotine lozenges used to help smokers quit.
Five ambulances were sent to Wendell E. Green Elementary School, at 1150 W. 96th St., around 10:10 a.m., to respond to reports of sick children.
According to the Fire Department, 18 children, ages 9 and 10, ingested “Niquitin Minis,” which are over-the-counter lozenges used to treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms in smokers who are trying to quit.
The students got the lozenges from another student, and took them thinking they were mints, according to Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus.
Sixteen children were taken to local hospitals in good condition. Two children refused transportation to a hospital after receiving treatment at the scene.
“This is a form of stop-smoking medication that contains nicotine, so when these young kids got a hold of it, they started to vomit and become sick,” said Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford.
Langford said the children had badly upset stomachs but didn’t appear to be in serious medical condition
The sick students’ parents were notified of the incident, and letters were being sent to other parents about it.
Nurses and social workers were also sent to the school to provide support.