In recent years, reports have increasingly surfaced all over the world of e-cigarettes exploding or spontaneously catching fire. According to CNN, there were 134 U.S. incidents of e-cigs becoming overheated, catching fire, or exploding that were identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2009 and 2016. Of the 134 reported incidents, there were 50 individuals injured. Additionally, 67 of these incidents resulted in property damage beyond the electronic cigarette.
The authors of a recent report for the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) state that many of these e-cigarette incidents have caused life threatening injuries, disabilities, permanent disfigurement and significant property damage. According to Ray Story, who is the CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, the cause of these fires and explosions is not actually the e-cigarette itself, but instead the battery used to power the device.
What is Causing E-Cig Explosions?
Story reports that the primary cause of these dangerous e-cig incidents is misuse or mishandling by the consumer. While this may be true in some instances, some batteries are more likely to malfunction than others. And although fault ultimately lies with the manufacturers and retailers of these devices, who are responsible for offering safe products with adequate usage instructions and warning labels, there are things vapor device users can do to help prevent overheating, fires and explosions.
- Storage and Transport of E-Cigarettes and Replacement Batteries: Story says that in many of the cases in which he has become involved, the user has carried the powerful e-cigarette battery in a pocket or purse that also held other batteries, coins or car keys. He states that the metal objects have reportedly shorted the batteries out.
- Charging Device: According to FEMA, 80 percent of dangerous e-cig incidents that have occurred happened when the device was charging. Many of the smaller devices like vape pens and “twists” have a USB port that is designed to connect to the adapter provided by the manufacturer. Unfortunately, all USB ports are not created equally, and when phone charging ports, car adapter ports, wall ports and other non-approved ports and adapters are used, the risk for malfunction increases significantly. An incorrect port or adapter can cause the battery to be subjected to current that is too high for the device which could result in thermal runaway- ultimately causing a fire or explosion. Consumers should only use the charging equipment that is provided with their e-cig device, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Charging Time: Many people leave their vaping devices to charge for extended periods of time or even overnight. Overcharging can lead to the battery overheating, which could result in a fire or explosion. Consumers should avoid overcharging e-cigarettes and never leave a charging e-cig unattended.
- Modifications: As the popularity of e-cigarettes has increased, individuals have consistently been searching for new ways to improve their vaping experience. They have even created competitions and demonstrations to show off their abilities. As a result, many users have begun to modify their devices with replacement parts that were not specifically designed or tested to work with their particular set-up. Using incompatible parts and modifying the design of vaping devices can raise the risk for dangerous malfunctions.
Types of Injuries Caused By Malfunctioning E-Cigarettes
Since most incidents occur while vaping devices are charging, small fires that result in property damage are more common than personal injuries when e-cigarettes malfunction, but serious injuries can and do occur. In some cases, e-cigarette incidents result in injuries so severe that they require extensive medical treatment and cause significant medical bills, lost time from work, and ongoing pain and suffering. Some of the more common types of injuries consumers sustain include:
- Moderate to severe flame burns to the hands, near pockets, and in the mouth and facial area
- Moderate to severe chemical burns
- Blast injuries that have caused tooth loss, the loss of soft tissue, and permanent disfigurement
- Smoke inhalation due to fires that spread
- Psychological trauma
Types of Damages that Can Be Recovered When E-Cigarettes Malfunction
When vaping devices malfunction and injuries or property damages result, the distributor, the retailer who sold the device and the manufacturers of both the e-cigarette and the battery can be held liable in some situations- even if the malfunction was caused by misuse by the consumer. In the United States, product manufacturers are responsible for providing adequate instructions and warning labels to enhance product safety. When they fail to do so and a consumer misuses a product due to lack of knowledge, personal injury claims and product liability claims are often successful. These claims can result in compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. In cases where the victim dies, funeral expenses and future lost wages can also be recovered.