Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are touted as an alternative to smoking that may carry less risks than traditional cigarettes. But e-cigs may carry their own dangers, as lawsuits in New Jersey show.
Four New Jersey residents have sued shops that sold them e-cigs, alleging that the products were defective and should not have been sold. The lawsuits came after the four plaintiffs were injured following the explosions of their e-cigs.
One of the plaintiffs, a 40-year-old man, suffered third-degree burns to one-fifth of his body after the lithium ion battery in his e-cig exploded in his pocket. The personal injury made him unable to work and will require skin graft surgery to repair.
Another plaintiff was injured similarly when his e-cig exploded in his pocket, sending shrapnel through his leg and burning him with battery acid. He, too, suffered third-degree burns and will require skin grafts.
The third plaintiff, a 16-year-old girl, was using her electronic cigarette when it exploded close to her face. It blew out her top four teeth and caused injury that required immediate plastic surgery. She will need bone grafts and extensive dental work to recover.
The fourth plaintiff, a 17-year-old boy, called the pain unbearable after he was burned on his arms and torso due to an e-cig explosion.
Why Are E-Cigs Exploding?
According to the United States Fire Administration, 80 percent of e-cig explosions happen during charging. Often, these explosions can be attributed to using a different charger than the one that comes with the device. When the wrong charger is used, e-cigs can be overcharged, which can lead to explosions.
However, the four plaintiffs in the above lawsuits were not charging their e-cigs at the time of explosion. So why did the explosions happen? Lithium batteries, the kind used in e-cigs as well as many other electronic devices (such as the infamous Galaxy Note 7, which was recalled by Samsung following an epidemic of explosions), have been known to spontaneously ignite. This occurs when poor design, use of low-quality materials, manufacturing flaws and defects or improper use and handling cause what is called “thermal runaway,” where the battery becomes hot enough to explode.
To avoid an e-cig explosion:
- Know your brand and don’t buy counterfeits
- Only use the charger that comes with your e-cig
- Don’t plug it into computers or other USB devices
- Buy an e-cig with a detachable battery for charging
- Do not leave the e-cig unattended while charging