While the dangers of smoking have been apparent and well-documented for quite some time, the risks associated with cigarettes’ new electronic cousins are just now becoming more widely known. And, unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t even need to be smoked in order to cause harm.
A growing number of e-cigarettes are malfunctioning and raising concerns about the safety of the devices. The Food and Drug Administration has recorded 66 accounts of defective e-cigarettes since 2015 and has already begun regulating the devices by extending the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Injuries from e-cigarettes can be serious, ranging from burns to shattered teeth and facial bones. A CNN report captures how unpredictable they can be. In it, we see one of the devices explode in a New York wine store employee’s pocket. The explosion caused third degree burns and he was expected to require surgery in order to fully recover. A 14-year-old was also burned when an e-cigarette exploded in someone else’s pocket while on a ride at Universal Studios, and a Kentucky man was hospitalized when his e-cigarette malfunctioned.
These types of incidents are leading to the U.S. FDA’s investigation of ways that it can enhance its regulation of e-cigarettes. In fact, according to a recent MedLinePlus report, The agency is dedicating an entire two-day workshop to electronic cigarettes later this year. The University of Washington Burn Center has also been researching the performance of the devices and, having arrived at their own shocking conclusions, “felt the need to get the word out” so consumers could know that using electronic cigarettes is, in fact, “a risk.”
Small but powerful lithium-ion batteries and the need for intense bursts of power could be a reason for a possible e-cigarette malfunction. When electrical components inside the battery are shorted, they can set off a domino effect inside the device. That can lead to the batteries overheating without warning and creating a dangerous reaction.
Market predictions forecast increased sales of e-cigarettes by nearly 25% in each of the next two years. FDA regulations could improve the overall safety of the devices but it will take time to truly understand what causes an electronic cigarette malfunction. Until then, more consumers could be at risk beyond what they might already expect when using an alternative to regular tobacco products.