“People need to know before they buy these devices that there’s a possibility they’re going to blow up in your pocket, in your face,” said Dr. Katie Russell, the trauma medical director at Primary Children’s Hospital who first treated the boy.
It’s unclear what type of e-cigarette was involved in the incident.
The teen from Nevada said he had no idea his vape could explode, according to Russell. He repeated the line over and over again in the emergency room, she remembers, and he was still “pretty freaked out” hours after the explosion.
“At that time, in my career, I had never seen this. I never heard of this as a possibility” said Russell, who described the boy’s injuries in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“I just wanted to get this out there so other people could know that this was possible,” she added.
The boy Russell treated was “a tough kid,” she said, and he healed well. But others have been less fortunate.
Two dead, others injured in e-cig explosions
‘Blast injuries’ and skin grafts
Most accidents involved flame burns, and almost 30% of patients endured “blast injuries” that led to “tooth loss, traumatic tattooing, and extensive loss of soft tissue.” The flame burns required wound care and skin grafts, the doctors wrote.
They added that “e-cigarettes remain largely unregulated” and warned that although “these incidents were previously thought to be isolated events, the injuries among our 15 patients add to growing evidence that e-cigarettes are a public safety concern that demands increased regulation as well as design changes to improve safety.”
FDA ‘concerned’ but doesn’t mandate e-cig recalls
Industry groups remain wary of regulation, arguing instead that manufacturers need the freedom to easily make changes to — and improve — their products. “We need to make sure that we’re not going to be regulated out of business,” said Ray Story, the founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.
“The industry can always do more,” Story said, but he blamed consumers for some of the accidents. While batteries may explode, he said, “a lot of that happens because of the failure of the consumer to actually charge those batteries properly.”
The agency said in a statement that it was “concerned” about “overheating and exploding batteries.” It recommended that consumers consider “using devices with safety features, preventing loose batteries from contact with metal objects, using the correct charger and not charging [a] battery overnight or [leaving] it charging unattended.”
“A pack of cigarettes says this can kill you,” Russell said. While e-cigarettes warn that nicotine is addictive, they seem to offer little information on battery risk, she said.
The safest option, according to Russell, may be to avoid vaping altogether. “The mom actually used one of these devices too,” she said. “After this, they all stopped.”