While the cancerous effects of smoking cigarettes are often at the forefront of discussion, it is easy to overlook another health hazard they pose: fire and burn hazards. A study done by the National Fire Protection Association links cigarettes and other tobacco and smoking products to the causes of approximately 90,000 fires in 2011. Due to legislation requiring tobacco companies to create “fire safe” cigarettes, there is an overall decline in these incidents, but the nature of a cigarette requires an open flame to ignite, so the threat of fire and burning is always present.
Electronic cigarettes are a consumer product gaining rapid popularity as a “healthier” and “safer” alternative to smoking true tobacco cigarettes. They create a nicotine vapor which can be inhaled like smoke and they can be scented or flavored to the user’s preference. A key feature of these products is their frequent reliance on re-chargeable batteries. They have a flameless activation, requiring neither matches nor lighter. It is easy to see how helpful and convenient one of these products would be for a cigarette smoker looking for a better alternative. Although these “e-cigarettes” are supposedly designed to provide the look, feel, and buzz of tobacco cigarettes without any of the risks, their recent increase in use has brought some serious incidents to light.
One particular type of incident that has made news headlines since the e-cigarette trend began has many people skeptical of these products. Recently, there have been scattered reports of e-cigarette explosions or failures that have dire consequences. An event like a battery explosion doesn’t quite fall under the severity of something like a gas explosion, however, there is a high likelihood of contact, flash, and even chemical burns. Since there are myriad companies that produce these items, it can be hard to trace where the parts are sourced and, if there are defects, who should be held responsible for them. That being said, there have been cases where damages were awarded due to explosions caused by faulty design.
While encountered somewhat less frequently than the more newsworthy and sensational e-cigarette explosions, overheating also presents a serious problem. Just this autumn, the dangers present if the device overheats made headlines. Imagine the damage to your throat from taking a drag of super hot vapor. There have actually been reports of such occurrences in the United Kingdom. Many of these overheating claims rarely make it to the news, and are instead discussed in online forums related to e-cigarettes. A quick google search of the words “e-cigarette burning” turns up a number of these discussions. Users sometimes claim that the vapor is burning their tongue or throat, or that the device itself is too hot to the touch.
Limited FDA Regulation
Because of the relative newness of these products, the FDA has not created any specific legislation in regards to product safety or health warnings. Officials are still trying to collect data on the product before approving any official regulations. Many people, in defense of their habit, chalk up these potential product defects as simple misuse of the product itself. Without clear cut regulations, it is important for the consumer to understand what risks they may face, but the onus should be on the companies to provide a safe and reliable product.
Although it is easy to see the benefits of switching over to electronic cigarettes, it is also important to keep in mind some of the risks involved that aren’t always obvious to the average consumer.