E-Cigs: Safer Cigarette Alternative or Dangerous Explosive?

by | Jun 14, 2016 | Health Featured

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, were once hailed as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Since e-cigs don’t burn tobacco, they don’t cause users to inhale deadly carcinogens. But respectable medical organizations have refused to endorse them as being a possible smoking cessation aid and savvy consumers have grown wary over the rise in dangerous e-cig explosions, injuries and even a spike in lawsuits surrounding these popular products.

Changing trends in e-cig explosions

Prior to early 2015, the majority of e-cig explosions (about 80 percent) occurred while the devices were being charged. Since users were less likely to be in close proximity to the devices while charging was ongoing, there were fewer injuries reported. But now, e-cigarettes with removable batteries are more popular and this may contribute at least in part to the growing trend of explosions occurring during use. Explosions can also occur when individuals carry the e-cig batteries in their pockets.

One recent survey of 168 e-cigarette explosions found that 45 occurred while the device was in use and 28 occurred during transportation, storage, or other unspecified circumstances. There have also been reports of 101 instances of injuries being inflicted or death occurring due to e-cig explosions, and 67 reports have been made of e-cig explosions inflicting animal death and/or property damage.

Injuries caused by e-cigarette explosions

When an e-cigarette explodes, the consequences can be disastrous. Life-changing injuries can occur, including significant facial disfiguration. In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Anne Wagner stated, “It’s literally an explosion, a super-hot explosion. We’re seeing deep third-degree burns and almost all of them require skin grafts and these grafts leave a significant scar.”

Dr. Wagner sees patients at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Burn Center, where doctors have already treated six people with serious injuries caused by e-cigs this year alone.

Earlier in 2016, Dr. Wagner’s Burn Center treated a 19-year-old whose e-cig battery exploded in his pants pocket. The device caused his pants to catch on fire, resulting in a serious burn on his upper thigh. “I heard what sounded almost like a sparkler going off, and then bang, a huge explosion, a huge flash of light and these flames were coming at my face,” said the patient, Alexander Shonkwiler. “As I looked down, my leg was on fire. I ripped my pants off, and even with my pants off, my leg was still on fire because the battery acid sprayed all over my leg and dripped down my leg.”

The devices have also been known to explode in users’ hands and mouths, leaving behind disfiguring injuries. Many consumers are increasingly concerned that these are not necessarily isolated instances. Dr. Elisha Brownson would agree with this view. She recently told NBC News that, “We initially thought this was a rare event, but this is increasing in frequency.” At her burn unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, she is averaging one e-cig explosion victim per month.

Consumer safety advocates point to the lack of regulatory oversight. Because e-cigarettes are not a regulated device, manufacturers have the freedom to select questionable batteries and other components that might be more predisposed to disastrous failures.


Author Name: Jacky Gale



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