As the use of electronic cigarettes goes up, so do concerns about their safety.
Because users can control the amount of nicotine they’re inhaling, the devices are helping some cigarette smokers kick the habit. But the batteries in these gadgets have been known to explode, resulting in broken bones, serious burns and lawsuits, even here in Florida.
Orlando lawyer Mike Morgan has filed a number of lawsuits, including a couple on behalf of Florida residents who claim their electronic cigarettes caught fire or exploded.
“All of our lawsuits involve people that have been severely injured,” Morgan said. “[They] have suffered third degree burns, have had the vertebrae blown out the back of their neck.”
E-cigarettes use small but powerful lithium-ion batteries to vaporize liquid nicotine mixtures so they can be inhaled.
“Basically the way these things end up exploding,” Morgan said, “it’s either the batteries are faulty or there’s not enough ventilation within the e-cigarette.”
And, he adds, because most e-cigs are just metal tubes, “when the heat builds up inside, they act as pipe bombs and they literally explode out.”
Morgan’s clients are seeking money for medical bills, and pain and suffering — and it’s not just manufacturers in his legal crosshairs. He said he’s also sued individual e-cigarette stores for failing to warn or educate customers about the dangers.
Chris Watford works at All Ways Vapor in Jacksonville’s Arlington area. He said he always brings up battery safety with his customers.
“Never put them loose in your pockets,” he says. “Never put them loose in your car and never keep them in your car on a hot day.”
The Food and Drug Administration recently assumed oversight of e-cigarette liquids to make sure they’re safe to use.
Websites, including ecigarettereviewed.com, are currently among the only source of consumer information about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries since safety warning labels aren’t required on packaging.
Still, Always Vapor customers Daniel Holloway and Sandy Holloway aren’t terribly worried. Now in their 60s, they say they turned to e-cigs to help them kick their longtime smoking habit. For them, the risk is worth it.
“Well, he has the beginnings of (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and I have a heart condition, so we started like at 18 (milligrams of nicotine) and we’re working our way down to 12 (mg) now,” said Sandy Holloway, 66, about the strength of the e-cig jiuce. And, her husband Daniel Holloway added: "Possibly we’ll be able to quit, eventually.”
In line with the national trend, the percent of Duval County teens that use e-cigarettes has tripled since 2012.
Reporter Cyd Hoskinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cydwjctnews