E-cigarettes hit the market in 2007, immediately becoming the new smoking choice over cigarettes and creating something of a new culture. However, what users did not expect was for those e-cigs to explode.
“With the advent of the vaping culture, we have seen an increase in e-cigarette-related injuries,” says Darren Miller, attorney and founder of D. Miller & Associates. “These cases are unique and not always easy to handle, since there is little regulation in that area of personal injury law.”
While rare, explosions associated with e-cigarettes, sometimes called vape pens, certainly happen. Consider the unfortunate circumstance met by Andrew Hall in 2017. While using his vape pen, the device exploded in Hall’s face, resulting in the loss of seven teeth and second-degree burns.
What causes these unfortunate mishaps? Are they really as common as the media has made them out to be?
Regardless of the media hype, the chances of an e-cigarette catching fire are minimal. According to the US Fire Administration, there were 195 reported cases of explosions or fires caused by vape pens from 2009 to 2016. In 68 percent of these cases, an individual was injured.
Many explosions are caused by misuse. That handy little packet of directions isn’t included just for looks; it contains pertinent information about proper charging techniques and storage temperature.
Of the 195 cases of reported fires, almost 25 percent of the incidences happened while the vape was charging. When this occurs, it is generally because the device is not plugged into the correct power supply. If it receives too high a voltage, the pen overheats. Stephanie Lee of Lifehacker writes, “Normally, batteries have safety features to prevent short circuits and overcharging. However, e-cigarettes typically have a USB port that appears to be compatible with any USB cable and charger. People often assume that any charger will do.” The heat causes the lithium battery inside the device to erupt, shooting out of its casing like a rocket. Extreme temperatures have a similar effect.
The lithium-ion batteries used in vapes are the real culprits. The US Fire Administration states, “E-cigarettes using lithium-ion batteries present a new and unique hazard to consumers. No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to vital areas of the human body.”
Part of the initial issue surrounding e-cigarettes is lack of regulation and oversight. In 2016, the FDA moved to enact new regulations that would require product authorization. The idea was to minimize the number of poor-quality e-cigarettes. Marketing registration should begin in 2018.
To avoid accidentally transforming a vape into a rocket, consider these steps:
- Always use a manufacturer-approved charger.
- Purchase high quality e-cigarettes or ones that have been safety-tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Do not leave charging batteries unattended.
- Keep the vape and spare batteries away from coins, keys, and other metal objects.
- As soon as the device is fully charged, unplug it.
Presently, e-cigarettes are still being studied, so it might be a good idea to keep a wary eye on the device . . . just in case.