E-cigarettes have been billed as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, but these devices have the potential to be extremely dangerous as well. While some say that the chemicals in the liquids can cause harm and that these devices may increase smoking habits in children, I am also deeply concerned about their potential to explode, making them more like flamethrowers or mini-bombs than anything else.
Headlines about exploding e-cigarettes have been popping up all over the country. The most recent reports occurred last week, when one man in Arizona said a device exploded in his pocket causing burns to his leg and another in Idaho reported his e-cigarette exploded in his face, knocking out seven teeth and burning his face and neck.
There have probably been hundreds of cases since e-cigarettes came on the market, but there is no way to know for sure. Burn experts I’ve spoken to from around the country are worried about the increasing number of cases they are witnessing. The University of Washington Burn Center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle has seen 23 cases since it started to informally keep track in 2015, and the University of North Carolina has seen 22 serious cases in the short period of months between January and September 2016. The University of Utah Burn Center is poised to see more this year than in the past. That center had 14 cases in 2016 and has already counted 9 cases since the start of the new year.
Many of these explosions have occurred in public places and made for shocking security videos, like this one from earlier this month. Fortunately I’ve seen no reports of bystanders injured…yet. And, while the number of people dealing with injury from explosions and fires may be far less than the number of total users of e-cigarettes, even a handful of exploding e-cigarettes represents a major problem. According to experts, these explosions are often the results of battery issues. Defective batteries, overcharged batteries, using chargers that don’t match the batteries, and keeping several batteries in one pocket or bag along with other metal objects can all lead to explosion.
Unfortunately, these are all-too common practices that put us all at risk. That’s why it’s imperative that the FDA regulates these products. We need to be sure that the batteries are safely made and that labels include information about how to reduce the risk of injury. In the products we reviewed we saw no warnings or instructions about preventing explosions. The good news is that the FDA did start to regulate the industry this past August and the FDA is planning a public workshop on e-cigarette battery safety this spring. The bad news is that companies have two years to comply with the new FDA rules, so that leaves a lot of opportunity for more injuries. Even worse, according to a report in the New York Times, the tobacco industry is pushing back and lobbying Congress to make it so that products already on the market would not be subject to these new regulations. That is simply a recipe for disaster as we’ve seen what has happened with existing products.
It is imperative that Congress not weaken the FDA’s new regulations on these products so they can ensure they are safe for users. In addition, these regulations will help innocent bystanders as well as children, who could be targeted by the marketing industry and fall prey to their advertisements.
That’s why the Dr. Oz Show is calling on everyone to let Congress know you want e-cigarettes regulated to protect adults and children alike. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids makes it easy to send your message, all you have to do is click here.