Vaping e-cigarettes is safer than smoking tobacco. This seems to be the general consensus among the population. While the debate about health and lung safety between vaping and smoking warrants its own post, it is safe to assume a rolled cigarette will not explode in your face or pocket. The same cannot be said about the electronic cigarette.
“A 2017 report by the U.S. Fire Administration found that between 2009 and 2016, nearly 200 incidents of fires or explosions involving e-cigarettes were reported across the nation.” The lithium ion battery used in e-cigarettes is the source of these horrific accidents. To add even more unease, it’s not just the act of vaping that is dangerous. Spare batteries, not even in use, have exploded in people’s pockets.
In early February, a California man filed a lawsuit against LG Chem (one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world). His e-cigarette battery exploded in his pants, causing 3rd degree burns. Nine other cases across the state have been filed against battery companies, four of which named LG as the defendant. The suits also include the shops and vendors who sell the batteries.
George L. Bently, the lead attorney handling these cases claims, “Second- and third-degree burns. Loss of teeth, loss of eyes. These are massive injuries that are occurring across the country. It’s crazy that the No. 1 battery manufacturer in the world is producing batteries that are exploding.”
The companies retort with the fact that users should be responsible with storing their spare batteries in an official case and keeping the batteries away from contact with keys and other metal items that might be present in their pockets.
Severe injuries are more likely to occur with e-cigarettes than with other consumer products containing lithium-ion batteries when they malfunction. The unique design of e-cigarettes encases the battery in a cylindrical tube. Because of this, “battery failures generate increased pressure that shoots the batteries out of the tube like rockets.” There is an added danger in that users hold e-cigarettes near their faces as opposed to laptops or even phones (which contain a flat battery).
Manufacturers deflect the blame towards the users in other ways too, stating improper charging or use of their product. Data shows “62 percent of the devices exploded when being carried in a pocket or when they were actively in use. Only 25 percent of explosions occurred during the charging process.”
In response to the incidents, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) added a system to evaluate and ensure the safety of batteries in e-cigarettes. Make sure to check for the UL certification on new products before purchase. Note that this is for battery safety only. E-liquid safety is another matter.
This isn’t the first product to suffer lithium ion battery malfunctions. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and Hoverboards have been notorious for exploding and causing personal injuries. They were even banned on airplanes.
Take care when using an e-cigarette. Check for UL certified products, purchase a case for your spare battery, and stay up to date on safety information. If you or anyone in your family has experienced injury from an e-cigarette battery malfunction, Reich and Binstock will help you receive compensation for your injuries and mental anguish.