Beware Exploding Cigarettes!

October 15, 2013 | Charles Bowen

It's not exactly breaking news that cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. We’ve all read the warning labels gracing every cigarette pack in the country, listened as doctors recounted the ways our health could be compromised by lighting up and seen those horrible PSAs where damaged lungs were compared with healthy ones. To help combat these dangers, a new industry has sprouted up and in recent years boomed in popularity: e-cigarettes. Experts say that the popularity of the electronic smoking alternative has risen exponentially, with the CDC saying that the use of e-cigarettes has doubled nationally in the last two years. Many in the industry predict that within ten years, there will be more e-cigarettes purchased than regular cigarettes.

The e-cigarettes are alleged to be safer, with smaller amounts of nicotine and none of the harmful tar and other chemicals that are found in regular cigarettes. However, safety advocates are quick to point out that the e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and thus it is not really known how safe they actually are.

Potential health risks aside, a more pressing safety issue has risen to the forefront concerning e-cigarettes: multiple reports of fires and explosions caused by faulty devices. One scary case took place here in Georgia where an Atlanta woman says her home was nearly destroyed when her e-cigarette exploded while charging.

Elizabeth Wilkowski says that she was charging her E-hit brand cigarette on the USB of her laptop when she heard a horrible noise. Wilkowski said it sounded like a bomb going off and was loud enough to terrify her pets and shake the walls of her apartment. The faulty cigarette then began spraying streams of fire across her living room, singeing her carpet and burning holes through her couch. Wilkowski thankfully thought fast and, after wrapping her hand in a nearby towel, was able to unplug the cigarette from her now-destroyed computer.

Though terrifying, the accident was not the rarity that many might suspect. Similar occurrences have been reported in California, Oklahoma, Arizona and Florida. Only a few months ago a woman and her husband suffered severe burns when their e-cigarette exploded while charging in the car. The couple ultimately had to maneuver the car to the side of the road and abandon it to avoid being burnt to a crisp. Even more harrowing was the case of a Florida man who last year had an e-cigarette explode in his face while he was smoking it. Unlike the other instances, the cigarette was not connected to a charger at the time. The man says the device blew up only inches from his face, blowing out his front teeth, burning off a large portion of his tongue and leading to several deep gashes across his face and head.

Experts say that the vast majority of e-cigarettes are produced in China and many safety experts wonder about quality of the manufacturers. The worry is that the rapidly growing industry will remain outside the reach of U.S. regulators and that Chinese companies that are not subjected to American jurisdiction will be outside the reach of injured American consumers.