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E Cigarette Burns

What Is An E-Cigarette?

“E-cigarette,” “e-cig,” or “vape” are all terms for a product that is becoming very common: the electronic cigarette. The devices make use of an electronically powered heat source to vaporize a liquid into a vapor or steam, which is then inhaled and exhaled in a manner similar to the way a person “takes a drag” of a cigarette. E-cigarettes are often powered by a portable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The liquids used for the vapor are often flavored and sometimes loaded with nicotine. These devices are often powered by the user pressing a button to trigger the heating component. Some e-cigarettes automatically trigger the heating device simply by the user initiating an inhalation. E-cigarettes are highly customizable and easily obtainable. Across the country, retail stores specializing in e-cigarettes, e-cigarette parts, vapor liquids, and batteries are popping up left and right. Prices for these devices can stretch anywhere from ten to twenty dollars all the way up to a several hundred dollars.

Why Do People Use Them?

E-cigarettes have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Popular among young adults, the e-cigarette can frequently be seen in college towns and major cities across the country. The primary and most commonly accepted use of e-cigarettes is to assist former smokers through the process of quitting. E-cigarettes can provide both the nicotine and the feel of a cigarette, without actually being a tobacco product. Many former smokers credit e-cigarettes for their success with quitting cigarettes. Some individuals simply choose to make use of e-cigarettes to “fit in” with other smokers or e-cigarette users, or to get the feel of smoking without having to take the risk of smoking an actual cigarette.

Much like the flavored shisha that is used in a hookah, e-cigarette vapor liquid comes in a wide variety of flavors, leading many people to make use of the e-cigarette just for the taste and similar feel to smoking a hookah. Another cited use of these e-cigarettes is the consumption of hash oil, which is a hyper-concentrated form of cannabis, created by separating the resin from marijuana, supposedly leading to a more extreme high.

Effects of E-Cigs

Unfortunately, due to a lack of regulation and monitoring of these devices, it is difficult to pinpoint the actual effects of these devices. Because the trend is relatively new, there has not yet been a large number of studies done on the long-term effects that these products may have on the users’ health. Many people will claim that the devices have helped them quit smoking. However, a report from the American Lung Association showed that as recent as the year 2013, as many as 76.8% of e-cigarette users were still smoking cigarettes, despite using the device in an attempt to quit. There has not been any particular proven benefit to using an e-cigarette to ease the process of quitting.

Another thing to keep in mind with these devices is that the flavoring used in many of the vapor liquids can contain any number of chemicals unknown to the user. There is no FDA regulation on what can and cannot be put into an e-cigarette’s flavoring liquids, meaning that a user will not necessarily know exactly what is going into their body with each inhalation. The chemicals in one brand’s strawberry vapor may be entirely different than the chemicals that go into another brand’s blend. There may even be a strong possibility that some of these chemicals are carcinogens, effectively eliminating the primary purpose of going smoke-free in the first place. Without knowing exactly what is going into these flavors, it can be hard to pinpoint what adverse health effects may stem from them.

Known Hazards

While many of the internal and long-term health effects for these products are currently shrouded in mystery, and will likely need more time for research, there have been a large number of documented incidents of a particular type of external hazard: burns. Across the country, and even overseas, the public has seen reports coming in of e-cigarettes exploding, catching on fire, or in some way causing burn injuries to the user. These incidents seem to come out of nowhere, and many have resulted in hospitalization for severe burns.

Common Causes of E-Cigarette Related Injuries

Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes require no open flame, so at first glance, there seems to be little risk of fire or burn. However, e-cigarettes still have specific components which can malfunction, resulting in burn injuries. News reports have pinpointed causes, but unfortunately, these usually come after an injury; consumers are not receiving proper warnings as to what may trigger an e-cigarette burn. Here are some common things that may cause an e-cigarette disaster:

Lithium Ion Batteries

The most common identifiable cause of severe burn injury to vape users is the battery. E-cigarettes make use of a lithium-ion battery to power the device. This battery is the same kind we use in our phone, tablets, and laptops. However, those batteries are under rigorous design, testing, and manufacturing constraints. Lithium-ion batteries for e-cigarettes are under no such constraints. In fact, many e-cigarette devices are just a hodgepodge of cheaply manufactured and poorly regulated parts shipped from all over the world and mashed together. What does this mean for the consumer? They get an inexpensive product that seems to work just fine, but is actually likely to malfunction at a moment’s notice.

Lithium-ion batteries are typically not dangerous in many products we use on a daily basis. Again, however, before they hit store shelves, most of these products have gone under extreme scrutiny; this is not always the case for e-cigarettes. With the increase in popularity of these devices, the batteries that power them are in high demand. E-cigarette shops, convenience stores, even gas stations will typically offer cheap rechargeable batteries for vape enthusiasts to power their devices. Many of these batteries will overheat or catch fire with just a short period of exposure to another metal, such as keys or coins in one’s pocket. Some of them are likely to overheat and explode while charging, which can cause the fire to spread to nearby objects in the room, or even worse, a moving vehicle. In a study done by FEMA, 80% of reported incidents occurred during the charging period.

Modifications

A common practice in the vape community is to modify the devices to suit personal preferences. This process is not necessarily promoted by vape retailers or vape manufacturers, though there is no real education for the user regarding what the effects of modification may be on the device.

This practice can be incredibly dangerous, and the results of modification gone wrong can be devastating. Many vape modifiers like to make the heating element reach higher temperatures. This allows more vapor to be created, leading to a larger vapor cloud, which is often desirable for those who engage in vaping for visual aesthetic. What it also allows for is the potential for the e-cigarette to cause injury or harm to the user. Since the market for these devices is vastly unregulated, there is no standard of direction on how, or even if, these devices should be modified.

Potential Hazards

There are also some potential hazards with e-cigarettes that don’t have very many cited cases, yet precaution should still be taken nonetheless. These hazards include:

Overheated Fluid or Vapor

A man in the United Kingdom was hospitalized when he inhaled his e-cigarette, and ended up with a hole burned into his lung. When he went for the inhale, the vaporizing device failed to properly activate, and instead of creating a cool vapor, the device launched superheated nicotine juice directly into his chest. While this is the only publicly reported case of its kind, the adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” seems appropriately applicable. If this can happen once, there is the possibility that it may happen again to someone else.

Popcorn Lung

While there have not been any cases that can be significantly traced directly back to heavy use of electronic cigarettes, there is another detrimental health effect that we may see linked to vaping: a condition commonly known as “popcorn lung.” Popcorn lung, or as it is more formally known, “bronchiolitis obliterans,” is an incurable lung disease. A Harvard study points out a chemical found in the juice flavoring agents, diacetyl, that has been directly linked to cases of popcorn lung.

Current Regulations

Currently, the e-cigarette market remains mostly unregulated. This is due to the nature of the product itself. E-cigarettes are both a way of consuming a drug (nicotine) and a way to simulate smoking for recreation. At this time, the FDA only regulates e-cigarettes that are marketed for purposes of quitting smoking, meaning that regulations don’t apply as long as a device is marketed for strictly recreational purposes. In essence, this means that these e-cigarette companies can get away with potentially unsafe practices. Cutting corners on a product that has the potential to have such a volatile reaction is unacceptable.

Where Does The Law Come In?

Sometimes, the only way to send a real message to these companies is the only way that they will understand: a lawsuit, going after the money they could have used to prevent these injuries from occurring. E-cigarette cases can be brought against both manufacturers and retailers alike under the legal doctrine of product liability. Below is a brief overview of the legal doctrine of product liability. The requirements for bringing a claim under the theory of product liability will be different depending upon jurisdiction, and the best way to evaluate the viability of any potential claim is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Product Liability

Product Liability is the legal doctrine that covers products that cause harm to their users. The doctrine can be applied to all parts of the chain of production, from design to manufacturing and all the way through to retail. Basically, most product liability claims are brought under three theories: negligence, strict liability, and warranty.

Negligence

Negligence claims typically rely on 4 elements to hold a defendant responsible for a victim’s injuries. These elements come up in the trial, and can be used to prove that the company that made or sold the product was in some way negligent in their practices, and this negligence caused you to suffer. The four elements of a negligence claim are:

  1. Duty: The defendant had a duty to uphold. In product liability cases this is often the duty to ensure that the products being created or sold are safe.
  2. Breach: The defendant breached this duty in some way.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty caused you to suffer harm. It must be proven that the defendant’s actions or inaction caused you to suffer.
  4. Damages: Damages is the word used both to describe the harm you suffered and also what you are recovering from the defendant.

Strict Liability

Strict liability claims do not require you to prove negligence. Under this theory, the manufacturer is liable if the product is found to be defective and unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer. All that must be demonstrated is that the manufacturer or seller was responsible for manufacturing or selling the particular product that caused the harm.

Breach of Warranty

Warranties are statements about a particular product by a manufacturer or seller that are communicated to a purchaser or user. Breach of warranty claims can be broken into three main sub-types:
1. Breach of an express warranty: if a manufacturer or seller makes any express assertion, either verbally or in writing, regarding the use of a product, a user or purchaser can bring a claim later if what was explicitly promised does not occur. For example, a mountain bike could come with a sticker reading “this bike is suitable for off-road use.”
2. Breach of an implied warranty of merchantability: rather than terms which are included in a sales contract, an implied warranty is the term for assumptions which a user or purchaser could reasonably make about a product. For example, a consumer might reasonably assume that a mountain bike wouldn’t fall to pieces if it encounters a mud puddle on the trail.
3. Breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose: where the buyer has a particular purpose for which the product is to be used, and the buyer is relying upon the skill and judgment of the seller in selecting a product suitable for that particular purpose, then an implied warranty exists that the product will in fact be fit for that particular purpose

What Can You Do?

If you or a loved one has been burned or harmed by a malfunctioning electronic cigarette, you may be owed compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at Walker Morgan have many years of experience in cases involving burn injuries, and will work with you to help you recover the compensation you may deserve. Burn injuries are traumatic and they can happen in an instant and take a lifetime to recover. Don’t hesitate to contact our firm for a free consultation, and don’t let these companies get away with cutting corners on their products. Contact us today.

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Our Attorneys

injury lawyer kirk morgan

Kirk Morgan

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injury lawyer billy walker

Billy Walker

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injury lawyer will walker

Will Walker

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injury lawyer chuck slaughter

Chuck Slaughter

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Types of Burns

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Degrees of Burns

First , second , and third degree burns

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Burn Injuries

There are many types of burn injuries

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Scald Burn Injury

Caused when very hot liquids come into contact with skin

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Electrical Burns

Electricity can burn the skin and is capable of causing internal damage

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Chemical Burns

Caused when a strong acid or base comes into direct contact with skin

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Car/Boating Accidents

Thermal burns can occur if the car catches fire or explodes

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Gas Explosions

Caused when a gas leak combines with an ignition source

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Worker’s Compensation

If you've been burned on the job, you may need legal guidance

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E-Cigarette Burns

Can be caused by defective batteries or overheated vapor

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