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Michigan Congresswoman Calls for FDA Oversight of E-Cigarettes after Exploding Vapor Pen Injures User

Aug 27, 2015

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to impose stricter controls on electronic cigarettes after a man was severely injured when a vapor pen exploded as he smoked it.

Dingell told WWJ/CBS Detroit that there are unanswered questions about the safety of e-cigarettes and vapor pens, which deliver doses of nicotine in vapor form of vapor, Plymouth-Canton Patch reports.

Most people "didn't think they had to worry about it exploding and I was actually stunned to hear of the number of incidents that have occurred across the country," Dingell said. The Michigan man, Jason Diekman, served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq without injury but was recently hospitalized when vapor pen exploded in his hand, sending shrapnel into the wall and scorching his arm and abdomen, according to Patch. "I pushed it and it just exploded – a big boom louder than a shotgun going off," Diekman told WJBK-TV.

In a letter to the FDA's acting commissioner, Stephen Ostroff, Dingell said the lack of regulation is "unacceptable." Dingell proposes that electronic cigarette manufacturers be required to disclose the ingredients in the products to the FDA. Diekman said there was no warning on the packaging indicating a danger. Diekman told WJBK, "That's what you get—left with a bunch of bills and you know, ‘Sorry about your luck.'"

"Consumers have a right to know the products they buy are safe and not ticking time bombs that could explode dangerously at any point," Dingell said. She is seeking both regulatory and legislative solutions and she encourages "anyone who has experienced an adverse event while using an e-cigarette to submit the problem to the FDA's Safety Reporting Portal. The FDA will use this information to help protect consumers from defective products and ensure proper oversight to protect public health."

Recent e-cigarette injuries include a San Diego man whose e-cigarette exploded while he was in a liquor store, burning him and causing damage to the store. In Anaheim, California, a teenager's hand was badly burned with an e-cigarette exploded and in Texas, an e-cigarette battery blew up in a man's pocket. Sparks were "shooting from his crotch area," according to the lawsuit filed against the store where he purchased the pen.

About 10 percent of adults now "vape," according to an online poll conducted between May 19 and June 4 by Reuters/Ipsos. This rate is almost four times higher than the 2.6 percent of adults who reported using e-cigarettes in 2013, according to Patch. Last year, the FDA proposed new regulations for e-cigarettes, though those regulations have not yet been made final. Some Republican lawmakers say the proposed regulations go too far, putting products already on the market at a disadvantage by requiring them to obtain FDA approval. But Dingell urged the FDA to retain this provision and require approval of products already on the market.

Though Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed e-cigarette bills earlier this year, he agreed that minors should not be able to buy e-cigarettes and he said the products should be treated as tobacco products, according to Patch.

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