Since becoming available in the United States in 2007, electronic cigarettes (particularly vape pens) have experienced a steady increase in popularity. Individuals of various age groups have chosen this alternative to smoking as a means of preserving their health while still being able to enjoy the habit. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—which, in 2016, implemented regulation over e-cigarettes and brought them under their tobacco product authority—north of two million middle and high school students were frequent users of e-cigarettes. While many advocate for the safety of e-cigarettes based on the premise that they do not contain tobacco, other threats to consumer safety posed by the products are often overlooked. E-cigarettes are notorious for using lithium-ion batteries, which are known to have serious explosion hazards. According to the United States Fire Administration, the media reported 195 separate incidents of fire and explosions attributed to the use of e-cigarettes between January 2009 and December 2016. Out of those 195 incidents, 133 were the catalyst of serious injuries. 62% of the incidents occurred while the devices were at rest in the user’s pocket or during use.
In 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a report in which it likened the failure of lithium-ion batteries to “flaming rockets.” One year later, a twenty-nine-year-old Colorado man found the warning to be true when he suffered shattered teeth, mouth burns, facial fractures, and a broken neck from the e-cigarette he was using. In early 2016, a fifteen-year-old boy also suffered the loss of multiple teeth in addition to lip and tongue lacerations when his device exploded during use. In 2017, a twenty-five-year-old man in Hawaii sustained severe facial injuries after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. Thus far, we have yet to see a fatality reported due to device malfunctions; however, many of the injuries sustained are life-altering.
These electronic cigarette-related injuries are on the rise. Unfortunately, they will continue to increase until manufacturers are able to provide an alternative to lithium-ion batteries and individuals who use these devices cease making modifications to them.