Exploding E-Cigarettes: Separating Fact from Fiction

On September 2, WSBTV reported that a charging e-cigarette had recently exploded in an Atlanta woman’s home. Elizabeth Wilcowski had purchased the e-cigarette from a local vape shop and was charging it with the USB port on her computer. She told reporters that it suddenly exploded, shooting flames four feet across her living room and leaving burns on her sofa and rug.

This is just one more sensational tale of e-cigs gone wrong. We’ve heard other similar stories in the past. You might remember Tom Holloway, the Florida man who suffered injuries after his e-cig blew out his teeth and a chunk of his tongue. Then there was the woman in Corona that suffered second-degree burns after her e-cigarette exploded in the car and set her dress on fire. Maybe you’ve heard of Krisy Hernandez, a woman that claimed an exploding e-cig did $6000 worth of damage to her car. As these stories become increasingly frequent, it really makes you stop and think. Are e-cigarettes really safe?

This whole issue boils down to the need for a little research. Before we jump to any conclusions, it’s vital that we know the facts and separate fact from fiction. After doing a little digging, we discovered that in most instances, the exploding e-cigarettes are not your normal everyday e-cigs.

For starters, let’s look at Tom Holloway’s face-exploding ecig. It turns out that it was actually an electronic cigar. Not only that, but it wasn’t even a regular e-cigar. It was a battery mod, which basically means he built it himself with parts he probably bought on the Internet. That’s a recipe for disaster, right?

In stories about exploding e-cigs, there is usually a lack of important information. These stories don’t typically tell you that exploding e-cigs are often modified from the original versions. Sometimes the batteries were charged with a cord that wasn’t designed for e-cigarettes. Sometimes they are left on the charger too long. Basically, most exploding e-cigarettes were not used correctly or were modified with outside parts.

While any exploding e-cigarette is certainly a tragedy, these stories are often used to push for heavy regulations. In reality, there are 3.5 million people using electronic cigarettes and that figure is likely to grow by the end of the year. In fact, e-cig sales are projected to hit $1.7 billion in 2013. With that many people using e-cigs on a regular basis and only a handful of stories about explosions, it’s pretty safe to assume that this isn’t the norm.

If a few exploding e-cigs mean that the whole industry needs strict regulation, then we probably need to come up with some regulations for other products too. How about a mandated regulation for lawn mowers? According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 40,000 people treated in emergency rooms for lawn mower injuries between 2008 an 2010.

Wait, you think it sounds ridiculous to push for lawn mower regulations? Well then maybe we should regulate clothes dryers! There were 14,000 fires, 10 deaths, and $84 million worth of property damage from clothes dryers between 2002 and 2009. Surely we need the government to give us some kind of clothes dryer regulation to insure this stops!

It sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the truth is that e-cigs are rarely exploding and no one has died from an exploding e-cig. Statistically speaking, it is much more dangerous to mow your lawn or dry a load of laundry than it is to use an e-cigarette. So what’s up with all this recent hype about the exploding e-cigs?

Ultimately, if you want to use electronic cigarettes, just make sure you use them with caution. Follow manufacturer directions and avoid mods that could turn dangerous. If at all possible, charge your e-cig batteries with a wall charger instead of a USB cable. With a little common sense and a tiny dose of caution, you can use e-cigarettes without worrying about a random battery explosion.

Do you get worried when you read new reports about exploding e-cigs?

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Author Focus: David Fitchburg
David is a 5 year vet of the e-cig scene. He started smoking in his late teens, his habit got pretty bad and the birth of his daughter really made him think that he should consider quitting tobacco. He tried everything with little success. Then in 2008 he discovered e-cigarettes, started vaping and has never looked back. Read Full Profile >