The e-cigarette, which was introduced to the market in 2007 has been considered by many to be an alternative to smoking and a tool to assist in smoking cessation. Since 2009 and up to March 2016, there have been some 25 separate incidents of e-cigarette injuries.
In one case, reported ABC News, an e-cigarette exploded, causing a fire. In another case in Florida, an e-cigarette exploded in the user’s mouth causing serious burns and damage to two teeth. In California, a man’s e-cigarette exploded in his hand, which led to serious burns. A New Hampshire bedroom was destroyed in a fire caused by an exploding e-cigarette.
A North Carolina man, seeking to reduce his cigarette intake, purchased an e-cigarette to help him to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. According to JDNews.com, the e-cigarette exploded during use, spraying what he described as hot oil on his face, which led to significant burns and temporary blindness. The man was hospitalized overnight and noted that the device warning was in small print and was difficult to read and understand. He said that the device he chose uses alcohol and propylene glycol, which are both combustible.
A fourteen-year-old teen purchased an e-cigarette at Plaza Vapes in the Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn, New York. According to the teen, the sales associate showed him a variety of models, installing a battery in one and allowing the boy to handle the device. There is no signage at the kiosk indicating that teens his age are legally prohibited from accessing the devices. The e-cigarette exploded and caused serious damage to the boy’s hand and eyes, leading to permanent blindness in one eye. He required not only immediate, but long-term medical attention, which has led to significant costs. A lawsuit has been filed on his behalf.
In yet another case, a Queens, New York woman’s e-cigarette device exploded in her pocket, which caused severe burning on her legs.
In addition to the sometimes combustible liquids used, the lithium battery used in the e-cigarette device and the device charger have been named as the culprits with 80 percent of the explosions happening while the e-cigarette battery was being charged. Lithium batteries store a large amount of energy in a small space that enables the battery to spontaneously ignite. When the charger overcharges the battery, the overheating creates the potential explosion or fire, a condition known as “thermal runaway.” Thermal runaway has been blamed on poor design, low quality materials, flaws and defects in manufacturing, and improper use.
In a survey conducted by National Public Radio (NPR), 60 percent of 3,000 Americans polled support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) activities seeking to regulate the agency’s involvement with e-cigarettes and have the devices treated as any other tobacco product. Federal Regulators began testing e-cigarettes in 2014, looking at the devices’ health aspects, specifically after the agency found carcinogens in the form of an anti-freeze component, as well as some nicotine in the devices. According to NBC News, the label claimed there was no nicotine.