Last June, a man was installing a windshield on a car in Austin when he heard a hissing sound and a vibration coming from his pocket. And then, boom. His e-cigarette had exploded in his pocket and he suffered severe burns on his thigh that made walking difficult. He could not return to work for several weeks following the incident. He was using the e-cigarette (also called a vape or e-cig) to try and cut back on his cigarette smoking habit.
This Austinite is one of dozens of people in the state to suffer injuries from an e-cigarette explosion. Many use e-cigarettes as, ironically, a less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking. However, as demonstrated in this instance, e-cigarettes can cause more harm than good.
Why Do E-Cigarettes Explode?
Typically, many e-cigarettes explode when being charged by a USB connector. The USB will charge a lithium ion battery, which is the power source that heats the liquid containing nicotine, creating the vapor that users will inhale. However, the USB connectors fit into any USB outlet, including power sources that were not necessarily designed to charge the lithium ion battery. So, if a battery charges too quickly, it will overheat and the liquid electrolyte breaches the battery cases and catches fire. That fire will raise the pressure inside the e-cigarette (which is usually made of metal) and because many small tubes can contain higher pressures than other shapes, the e-cigarette won’t give out on the sides. Instead, the pressure will build to a dangerous level and the two end-caps will blow off. When this happens, flaming electrolytes shoot out and spray all over whatever, or in this case, whomever is nearby. Horrifyingly enough, an overheated e-cigarette battery can create a pipe bomb and seriously injure its user or cause property damage.
Worse still, there have been reported incidents where an e-cigarette has exploded in a user’s face, including the incident where one user lost his eye and the other lost three teeth in disfiguring explosions. These were cases where counterfeit lithium ion batteries were implemented and could not handle the amp needed to heat the liquid. This caused a short, followed by an explosion.
The Vaping Industry Needs to Be More Vigilant in Protecting Users
In order to prevent minors from acquiring this new form of tobacco product, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped in. However, the FDA needs to go a step further and require smoke shops and convenient stores to implement safety features that will prevent overheating. The vaping industry needs to get its act together and enforce safer models and power sources so that consumers aren’t accidentally making bombs by plugging their device into the wrong charger.