The public is well aware of the dangers of traditional cigarettes. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States and causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths. E-cigarettes have been posed as the innovative, less hazardous alternative for those who still crave their nicotine fix. Since their introduction to the market in 2007, they have gained popularity as a recreational indulgence and alternative to traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes have even been endorsed by the AAPHP (American Association of Public Health Physicians) as an alternative that carries a “substantially less risk of death.”
However, it seems you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Each e-cigarette comes with the risk of a malfunctioning battery. While e-cigarette battery malfunctions are rare, when one does occur, the results could be horrific. Common injuries include burns, fractured bones, and loss of eyesight. Although e-cigarettes have an undeniable potential for injury, they are currently an unregulated product, so it is unclear how many injuries they’ve caused since their release. However, accidents involving e-cigarettes appear to be more and more common. Each of these case reveals the degree of destruction of which these malfunctioning e-cigarettes are capable.
Earlier this year, 19-year old Alexander Shonkwiler’s e-cig battery exploded in his pocket. It set his pants on fire and caused a painful burn on his upper thigh. He says, “I heard what sounded almost like a sparkler going off, and then bang, a huge explosion, a huge flash of light and these flames were coming at my face. As I looked down, my leg was on fire. I ripped my pants off, and even with my pants off, my leg was still on fire because the battery acid sprayed all over my leg and dripped down my leg.”
In Irvine, California, a 63 year old man named Joseph Calvins lost his left eye when his e-cigarette exploded in his face. The explosion sent fragments of the device flying causing both a fire in Calvins’ home as well as fractures to Calvins’ facial bones. Calvins testified, “I felt like I was hit on the side of the head and everything went south from there.”
Vicente Garza, of Bakersfield, California, also experienced his e-cigarette exploding in his face. He claims he did nothing out of the ordinary prior to the accident. He simply lifted the device to his mouth, pushed the vapor button and started to inhale as he had many times before. It then violently exploded near his face, badly burning his mouth and dominant left hand, which was holding the device. Doctors were forced to amputate Garza’s left index finger, and he had to undergo immediate surgery on his tongue. Garza was left incapable of eating after the incident. “I never in my life thought that something like this would happen,” says Garza.
In another horrific accident, Jesse Milk of Tustin spent seven days recovering in a hospital after his e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. He suffered severe burns and had to have a small piece of the device surgically removed from his tongue. Luckily, his teeth, now shattered, stopped pieces that could have potentially choked him to death. Milk says he will never be near another e-cigarette again. “I don’t even want to see it; it’s scary,” he says.
Most e-cigarette explosions have been attributed to a battery malfunction, particularly a lithium ion battery malfunction. These batteries use flammable liquid electrolytes that can combust when overheating occurs. “The electrolyte inside the battery is basically the equivalent of gasoline,” explains Venkat Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “So when these batteries short out, there’s a surge of heat that causes this flammable electrolyte to combust and explode.” Well-made lithium-ion cells have a very small risk of combustion. However, those that are made from cheaper materials have a much greater chance of combusting. But, due to a lack of e-cigarette regulation, there are few safeguards for consumers. It’s difficult for consumers to know where their devices were manufactured. It’s even more difficult to know if they were properly designed and tested before being allowed on the market.
Despite the lack of regulation, there are steps one can take to lower the risk of a horrific accident:
- Buy from a reputable source and avoid counterfeits.
- Do research on the type and brand of device that you plan to purchase. Read the reviews and research if the brand has had any instances of a malfunctioning battery.
- Only charge the e-cigarette with the power adapter that comes with the battery.
- Perhaps opt for a device that has a battery that can be removed from the atomizer to charge as these have had fewer instances of harmful accidents.
- Never overcharge your battery.
The trauma and injuries these victims have endured raises the question if the risk of such a horrendous accident is worth the nicotine fix.
If you or a loved one has been injured by an exploding e-cigarette as a result of another person’s fault, call our California personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation. We accept personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there will be no cost to you, unless we recover. Our attorneys at Guldjian will aggressively fight for you until justice is served, whether it is through a settlement or a trial. Let us help you and your loved ones get through this difficult time. Our dedicated and caring team of California personal injury attorneys will be available to you 24/7. Call us at 888.546.5315 for a free consultation.