The Dramatic Story of the Exploding Electronic Cigarette
19 great comments - add yours!
by: James Dunworth

Reads: 1 million e-cig users representing over 1 billion uses without a single incidence of harm and in the US since 2007.

That’s what the TVECA stated about electronic cigarettes a few weeks ago.

But if you read it, and you’re like me, you probably thought:

When’s something going to go wrong? Surely it’s only a matter of time!

I mean, how can you use something, no matter how safe, a billion times without someone getting hurt at least once?

Consider these stats:

  • ballpoint pens kill on average one hundred people a year
  • mobile phones kill 6000 drivers a year in the US alone (texting while driving)
  • beds kill 450 people a year (when people fall out of them)
  • vending machines kill 13 people a year

Electrifying Battery Stats

batteries

And that’s before you get into the area of batteries, an essential component of e-cigarettes:

In the area of electronic cigarettes, however, an accident was bound to happen at some point.

Modding: an accident waiting to happen

The modifying battery issue was a ticking time bomb - and now it's exploded.

Take a look at this warning from e-cigarette forum:

If not done properly, modding can be dangerous and cause injury should these devices short circuit and explode.

Or this one:

FOLLOWING ANY OF THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS SECTION MAY BE DANGEROUS AND IS ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK

Source: E Cigarette Forum

If you are wondering what modding is, here’s a wikipedia definition:

Modding refers to the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software or anything else for that matter, to perform a function not originally conceived or intended by the designer.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modding

In the electronic cigarette world, not all mods are modified – some companies are selling mass produced mods. Some of these companies are respectable, others not.

Yet we still have a large number of people in the US building/adapting/modifying large electronic cigarettes with powerful batteries, sometimes purchased on the cheap from dodgy sources. When someone doesn’t know what they are doing, that carries a large risk of explosion.

While we don’t know for sure, it appears that’s may what have happened here.

The Exploding Electronic Cigarette: What happened, and why we think it happened

Florida based Tom Holloway had settled down to enjoy a quiet vape in his study.

That was until his electronic cigarette battery exploded, knocking out his front teeth and part of his tongue, showering red hot metal over the room and setting the room on fire.

Investigating, fireman found a charger – and the type of batteries used in mods.

Unlike regular e-cigarette batteries, these batteries do NOT have the safety circuitry and cut offs needed to keep vapers safe.

We don’t know for sure that he was using a mod – but it seems like a strong possibility.

(Source: UK Vapers)

How not to get your head blown off by an exploding electronic cigarette battery

rohs symbol

While no risk can be eliminated absolutely, whether with ball point pens, beds or with e-cigarettes, the following tips can help ensure your safety.

  1. Keep batteries away from extreme heat.
  2. Use batteries from retailers certified by ECITA. Batteries from these retailers have ROHS and CE approval, and cut off mechanisms designed to keep them from overheating.
  3. ALWAYS use the battery with the charger supplied. This is the biggest risk, IMO, as it’s possible to have different e-cigarettes and get chargers mixed up.
  4. Unless you know what you are doing, don’t modify e-cigarettes, and don’t mess around with the batteries.
  5. If you’re still worried, use a regular e-cigarette – according to an engineer I spoke to, if things went badly wrong with them, they don’t have enough power to do much more than go POP.

Finally…

Smoking death.

While the incident is alarming, it’s worth remembering that smoking kills around one in three smokers. (Eventually!)

In contrast, one e-cig user out of over a million (in the US alone) has suffered a non-fatal injury using an electric cigarette in the most dangerous way possible.

It’s terrible for Tom (and we hope he gets better!) – but which would you prefer:

A 33% chance of death versus a one in a million chance of injury?

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19 Responses to “The Dramatic Story of the Exploding Electronic Cigarette”

  1. Steve K February 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    James,

    You know I have the highest level of respect for you. But, I have to take exception to your statement on mods.

    First, while in the most technical sense of the word, yes, mods are home-made devices that therefore could be of any level of quality. But, the definition has for a while now been expanded to include products produced by companies with actual standards. Some mods are even mass-produced now right alongside the more traditional stick-style e-cigarettes.

    To insinuate that Mods lack safety controls is a blanket statement and somewhat irresponsible. There are a number of mods on the market that feature far more safety controls than your average e-cigarette.

    Also, this is very important to point out. The truth is we really have no clue what the gentleman was actually using at the time of the accident. Yes, the fire department found 3v batteries. Although, the source of that information seems to come from a forum thread, I’m not sure if it’s been verified.

    But here’s the thing. Those batteries are also commonly used in cameras, and the man is a photographer.

    I happen to think he was using a mod as well, but I’m trying very hard to avoid some of the pitfalls of some media outlets that have a bad habit of jumping to conclusions further exacerbating the issue.

  2. Littece February 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Adults who modify any electronic device do so at their own risk. I hope he is able to heal from this unfortunate incident. E-cigs should not be regulated (there are too many regulations on too many things as it is) but personally even though I would like to try a mod, I have always hesitated. My dad was an electrician and I saw lots of scary stuff w/ the power of electricity when not handled properly. I have stuck to the joye 510 so far. I would like to try a mod but I’m not so sure after reading this that I ever will :))) Everyone using mods please just be extra careful.

  3. Pete Howells February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    “MODS”
    Hi, I am renowned for always having a pencil behind my ear, and a recent convert to the e-cigarette, having previously rolled my own for many years.I am also the proud owner of a capacitive touch screen i phone. What is the connection between these things, I hear you ask. Well,I have converted an old Parker pen top to accept the end of a capacitive stylus (3 for 97p off internet!)which just slides nicely over the end of my “Halo” giving me not only the means of writing on my tablet but also acts as a clip for the pocketing of it. Now instead of biting the end of my pencil, I can vape it. Only disadvantage is that its a bit heavy for behind my ear. (There is of course a hole in the top for venting the red end,which allows for seeing it flash when the battery runs down. I have not interfered with battery voltage at all. I am now in the process of developing a more comfortable mouthpiece, using a blank atomiser cartridge from “The Tank”. I am happy to send photos and instructions to anyone who has the same need as myself.(If there is such a beast!)

  4. James February 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Hi Steve

    As always, thanks for your comments and your feedback. I agree that the blog post was not clear and potentially misleading (in suggesting that all mods are hand made), and I also was not aware that the gentleman was a photographer, so following yours and Julie’s comments I have changed the blog post to make it clearer. I have spoken to an engineer who believes that that a regular battery would not have had the power to create an explosion, so I think it is still highly likely that it was either a mod or an electronic cigarette with a very powerful battery.

  5. James February 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Hi Littece

    I agree – I don’t think mods should be regulated. People should be free to make their own judgements and take their own risks. Asking people to be careful and advising them only to modify e-cigs if they know what they are doing is a far cry from calling for regulation.

  6. James February 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Would like to see photos of that, Pete ;) Why don’t you post one on our facebook wall?

  7. Steve K February 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Thanks James! And I do agree with you, it’s my opinion that he was most likely stacking 3v batts in some sort of tube mod. That’s the theory I ran with on the article I published about the incident today too.

    I’m just a little sensitive to how rampant the speculation has been taking off, not only in the media, and among “regular people” I just saw a tweet on my feed from some person who added “ripped off his lips” to the ever-increasing list of injuries the internet is making up.

    The vaper community is also kind of running wild with speculation too. Ultimately, I want to know the details, for example, were the batteries protetected or IMR, or not (stacking unsafe batteries is asking for trouble). Similarly was the mod one of the newer ones with built-in vents. Mostly that would help answer if vents are an effective safeguard.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with your premise, I don’t think there is a need for panic at this point. And I sincerely doubt stick type e-cigarettes would fail explosively (possibly fire, but I don’t think they would explode). Of course I’m not an engineer, I make fun of prohibitionists on the internet and tell people how to fix computer networks :)

  8. James February 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    No problem, Steve, if both you and Julie thought there was a problem it must have needed adjusting. And I still think that a single accident in a billion uses is better risk than a one in three chance of dying (I know it’s a statistic, but it gives us something to go on) from smoking.

  9. Stephanie February 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi James! First let me say I truly enjoy your newsletters and I think you are fabulous!
    I have been using an ecig for just over a year now and have also converted dozens of friends over to ecigs also. I use ( and absolutely love it) a Joytech 510. I have a friend who started on the EGO T around the same time as I did. He went from the 650mah to the 1000mah and then decided he was going to build his own Mod. One day while he was enjoying a vape and some television his “modified” ecig exploded and although he somehow managed to avoid being severely damaged, his couch caught on fire. Thankfully it didn’t burn his house down but it certainly scared the ” crap” outta him!! He decided after that to just go back to a Regular Ego and eventually quit all together. My friend is not an idiot. He knew what he was doing when he modified his ecig but he could have been killed or severely hurt from it. I think people need to be aware of the potential risks.

    • James February 18, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      Wow, thanks for the comment, Stephanie, it’s nice to know people actually read the blog :) Again, it’s really useful to have people with actual experience of mods comment, as it’s outside my own field of experience. Glad your friend was okay!

    • James February 18, 2012 at 2:37 am #

      Thanks, Steve. I was trying to find stats of how many people had been killed/injured, but couldn’t locate that data.

  10. laura February 20, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    would you say that the ego if it hasnt been modified by the user is dangerous because of its size?? is the ego a mass produced mod?

    • James February 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Laura,

      The Ego has been referred to as a mod, but it’s not what I personally would call a mod.

      I am not an expert on battery sizes or modified electronic cigarettes (I took some advice before writing this post) but as I understand it the Ego battery is no more dangerous than a mobile phone battery or laptop battery. Obviously, risk can not be eliminated completely, but they are tiny compared to the risks of smoking.

  11. Dave February 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    James, I don’t know how anyone can refer to an off-the-shelf, single battery, eGo as a ‘mod’, so I’m with you on that. There seems to be some confusion in how some people classify ‘mods’. As I have read, eGo batteries are not likely to explode in use because they have built-in protection and as a single-cell unit, the risk is still very low.

  12. James February 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Personally, I am not sure why anyone calls mass produced e-cigs mods as it’s a contradiction in terms, but I suppose they are jumping on the bandwagon of mods popularity. But I agree with, eGos don’t look anything like the mass produced mods either. I know they are widely used and I haven’t heard of any incidents connected to them either.

  13. Mike February 21, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Mods are generally a BIG or of the shelf battery modification , as a MFG of MODS we have taken into account all of the potential dangers of these devices and provided safety functions to deal with these areas .

    A HOME MADE mod does not normally have these protections because they require the device to be engineered by a electronics / mechanical designer to design them into the device and most people do not have that ability.

    Not all MODS are home made many are made buy professional MFG with years of experience.

    Mike Buzzetti
    Notcigs.com

  14. Kendall February 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    None of this has stopped Mike from arrogantly pushing his own product lines, the design of which depend heavily upon the transceiver driver modules he works with in his fiber optic business.

    A “professional” is not just what you think you do, and how much you lord it over the common vaper, it’s also how you act toward the public and competing vendors.

    In this, Mike is severely lacking.

  15. jay August 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    hi i started using e lite and havnt smoked for a week,i,m worried with all this news aboutexploding cigs etc,are the e lights safe to use,i use it but i dont ever fully charge it,i never let it get hot,what makes explode?? jay

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