Why do e-cigarettes explode?

There are a variety of reasons. The irony is that electronic cigarettes were invented as a potentially safer way for smokers to get the nicotine they crave. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Since e-cigarettes were introduced in 2007, the market for these devices—also known as vape pens—has grown to nearly $2 billion a year, with over 2.5 million users in the United States. During the same period, though, there were a steady stream of news reports about e-cigarette fires and explosions. Those events have hurt property and people, including incidents of:

  • Scorched and burned furniture
  • House fires
  • Fires set on public buses, airplanes, and private vehicles
  • Facial burns and scarring
  • Tongue damage
  • Lost teeth
  • Chemical burns
  • Burns on the thighs, hands, groin, or other parts of the body when a vape pen explodes in a pocket

The Battery Is the Problem

An e-cigarette functioning properly doesn't produce flame, fire, or smoldering ash. The device uses a miniature battery to vaporize a water-based liquid, producing steam rather than smoke. The user then inhales this steam.

Small, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the industry standard for these devices. There's not a legal requirement that a nationally-recognized testing laboratory approve the battery or other components of the e-cigarette. Many manufacturers cut costs by failing to submit e-cigarettes for safety testing.

In a 2014 study of e-cigarette fire and explosion risks, the U.S. Fire Administration found that defective battery incidents were uncommon. Most of the events happened when the battery was being charged, but about 20 percent occurred when the e-cigarette was in use or simply being carried by someone. In some cases, the cause of battery failure seems to be related to incompatible USB ports when charging the battery.

However, the U.S. Fire Administration is careful to note that lithium-ion batteries contain flammable or combustible liquids, and there's a history of these batteries failing in other electronic devices. When an electronic cigarette battery fails, its unique cylinder shape can propel the device across the room “like a bullet or small rocket.”

Dozens of other e-cigarette fire and explosion events have been reported since the U.S. Fire Administration study was completed. An April 2017 survey of burn centers across the United States found at least 300 incidents that required hospitalization.

Product Liability Claims for E-Cigarette Injuries

A manufacturer offering a product for sale has an obligation to see that it doesn't hurt people in the course of normal use. The manufacturer can be held legally liable:

  1. If a product is designed improperly.
  2. If the process for manufacturing and inspecting the product sends a defective item to market.
  3. If the manufacturer fails to warn consumers of particular dangers associated with the product, or fails to include complete instructions for consumers using the product.

Because of the high number of injuries caused by e-cigarette lithium-ion batteries, many consumers have filed lawsuits against vape pen manufacturers. Cases have cited all three of the reasons listed above for why the manufacturers should be held responsible for the resulting injuries. Plaintiffs have demanded compensation for losses such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Diminished quality of life

If you were injured by a defective e-cigarette or battery, find out your legal rights as soon as possible. There's a time limit for filing claims for personal injuries caused by defective devices. Use the contact information on this page to reach the experienced product liability lawyers at Lattof & Lattof. Your initial consultation with our legal staff is absolutely free of charge.

The attorneys at Lattof & Lattof  maintain a nationwide practice for product liability claims. This means we can work with you even if you live far away from our home office in Alabama.