Long-term harm from nicotine or chemicals aren't the only potential dangers from e-cigarettes, with doctors seeing a growing number of injuries from ‘vapes' that overheat or catch fire.
Monday, September. 2, 2019: When experts look at whether electronic, or ‘e-cigarettes', are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, the focus is often on the long-term effects of chemicals or the nicotine they release. However, doctors say the devices can also cause severe burns, with a growing body of evidence that they are a fire hazard.
Baruch Fertel, M.D., a physician in the emergency department at Cleveland Clinic in the United States, says doctors are seeing more and more instances where people become injured after batteries for e-cigarettes, often referred to as ‘vapes', overheat or catch fire. He says sometimes reactions can happen if the battery comes into contact with something that it's not supposed to.
“We've seen cases of people keeping an electronic cigarette in their shirt pocket, and it hitting a coin, or their keys, causing a short circuit, and causing a fire,” said Dr. Fertel.
In one recent study, researchers identified more than 2,000 reports of burn injuries to people over a two-year period as a result of handling e-cigarettes in the U.S., based on reported hospital visits.
Dr. Fertel, who did not take part in the study, says the risk of explosions or burns from e-cigarettes is highest when people try to make their own devices, or use batteries that are not appropriate for their e-cigarettes.
“It's important that people not try to go and construct their own device, or use their own battery that's left over from a laptop, or from a phone, or something else,” he said. “It's important that they use the ones that the manufacturer creates, specifically for this purpose, and that have appropriate safety features.”
Dr. Fertel says lithium ion batteries are prone to overheating, and when people buy them on the internet, they may not be approved for an e-cigarette, and can overheat or even explode. He advises against leaving batteries plugged in for a long period of time or overnight, as this can cause them to become dangerously hot.
He also warns that if an e-cigarette device becomes too wet, or damaged, the safest thing to do is to discard it.