An e-cigarette battery overheated and ignited a fire on an American Airlines flight shortly after landing on January 4, 2019. In a USA Today.com story, Ross Feinstein, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said that flight attendants are trained on how to fight high-energy battery fires, and that they “quickly extinguished the fire and the plane taxied to the gate.” There were no injuries to passengers or flight crew.
We’re glad that no one was hurt this time, but that isn’t always the case. E-cigs and other battery-operated nicotine delivery systems are much more dangerous, and can do far more damage, than people realize.
What are e-cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated cigarettes which heats a cartridge of flavored, liquid nicotine which delivers vaporized nicotine without the tobacco, tar and other chemicals present in regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not emit smoke, but users can exhale vapor, making it seem like they are smoking.
E-cigarettes pose a significant risk of fires and burn injuries
In a 2017 report, the U.S. Fire Administration claimed:
“Between January 2009 and December 31, 2016, 195 separate incidents of explosion and fire involving an electronic cigarette were reported by the U.S. media. These incidents resulted in 133 acute injuries. Of these injuries, 38 (29 percent) were severe…. One hundred and twenty-one (62 percent) of the incidents of explosion and fire involving an electronic cigarette or its battery occurred when the device was either in a pocket or actively in use.”
The numbers may be even higher. A report published in Tobacco Control, using data from the CPSC, shows that about 2,035 people have gone to emergency departments because of e-cigarette burns or explosions between 2015 and 2017. The researchers admit that this is likely an underreporting of the injuries because not everyone who has experienced an e-cigarette explosion has taken themselves to an emergency room, and many injuries are never reported to any authority.
The truth is, e-cigarettes are dangerous. There is no real, comprehensive data about their abilities as smoking cessation aides, or what other health risks they present. What we do have is data showing that defective lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes can lead to burn injuries, and that anywhere between 195 and 2,000+ people have been injured in some capacity in the last 10 years.
Furthermore, those batteries can explode at any time. Per the Fire Administration report:
“Many consumers purchase spare batteries so they can vape through the day without having to recharge batteries. Many vape shops sell plastic cases to store and carry the spare batteries; these are intended to prevent a battery short-circuit (and the ensuing explosion) if the terminals of the battery come into contact with keys or spare change in a pocket. As noted above, the device or battery in a pocket was the leading status of the e-cigarette at the time of the incident.”
These devices are dangerous enough in your pocket, but if you are using an e-cig with a defective battery, you’re also risking an explosion right near your face. You could lose vision in one or both of your eyes, or sustain permanent scarring from the burns.
If you have been injured because an e-cigarette exploded, Plattner Verderame, P.C. can help. Our defective product attorneys represent clients who have sustained injuries because of exploding or malfunctioning electronic cigarettes. To schedule a free consultation at our Phoenix office, please call 602-266-2002 or fill out our contact form today. We represent clients throughout Arizona.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
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