Is Anything Being Done To Prevent Exploding E-Cigarettes?

While concerns about health effects and youth-targeted marketing have the attorneys general of 37 states asking the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes much like the agency regulates the sale of tobacco, there are numerous reports of the devices “exploding” or catching fire, which can be significantly more dangerous than simply inhaling nicotine.

For example, there was the Florida man who had an e-cig explode in his mouth last year, resulting in a trip to the hospital to treat burns to his face.

At the time, a rep for industry group the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association told the AP that the organization had not heard of any incidents involving explosions or fires.

But in just the last few months, there have been numerous reports of fires caused by e-cigs going “kapow.”

In September, an Atlanta woman says her new e-cigarette was charging when it exploded and shot flames several feet across her living room.

A more high-profile incident occurred a few weeks later in Utah, when a young child was burned after an exploding e-cigarette set fire to the youngster’s car seat.

The Provo Fire Marshall said at the time the fire was due to a “catastrophic failure of the device,” and that this was the second such explosion he knew of in the city, but luckily only the first to result in an injury.

And just this week, a Minnesota man says his e-cig “turned into a firework” while plugged into his computer for charging.

“This is something that is supposed to be safe and is not,” he told MyFox 9 in Minneapolis.

The owner of an e-cig shop in the area told the station that “There’s a lot of inferior products out there,” and that he hears of similar incidents a few times a week.

Given its previous claims that it didn’t know of explosions and fires related to e-cigarettes, we went back to TVECA to see what, if anything, the industry was doing to minimize the odds of future incidents.

“We at the TVECA push for regulation that requires companies to purchase products with GMP (good manufacturing practices) standards,” a rep for the organization tells Consumerist. “We request that these companies also carry liability insurance on all products sold. We work diligently with government agencies to implement these rules so that we can create a responsible and stable industry.”

The rep did attempt to downplay the prevalence of the issue, pointing to the millions of e-cigs sold and used without incident, though he did admit that even the few incidents that have occurred are not acceptable.

It seems like most e-cig explosions occur when the the device is being charged. As some remarked in response to this Reddit thread about a fiery faux smoke, the devices will sometimes continue to attempt to charge the battery even after it is already fully charged. This can happen either because the cigarette doesn’t have a built-in safeguard to prevent this and/or because the person charging the device is using a charger that didn’t come with it.

So even though most of us have gotten used to leaving phones and other rechargeable devices plugged in long after they have been fully charged, e-cig users should be careful and unplug their devices from the charger when it is recharged. Consumers should also pressure the manufacturers and regulators of these devices to enact stricter quality control standards and to employ technology that will prevent e-cigarettes from continuing to charge already full batteries.