Washington, DC - May 8, 2016 - On the heels of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcing it has full authority to regulate e-cigarettes, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today warned about a serious problem involving exploding e-cigarettes, which have caught on fire, and have burned and injured scores of individuals, including individuals in New York. Schumer said that over the past few weeks, at least four New Yorkers, including two teens, have been seriously injured by exploding e-cigarettes. Despite these dangers, there have been no product recalls or new defective warnings issued on e-cigarette products. Schumer now wants the FDA to investigate exploding e-cigarettes and determine what, if any, actions might be required to prevent these explosions from occurring.
“It’s bad enough that e-cigarettes cause nicotine addiction and may be dangerous to a person’s health, but now it seems they’re doubling as a ticking time bomb,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Now that the FDA has asserted full regulatory oversight over e-cigarettes, the agency should use this authority to investigate whether these repeated explosions require a recall or more warnings. We cannot turn a blind eye to the dangers of exploding e-cigarette devices, especially when many of the injured are teens. The FDA should determine whether these vaping devices are flawed and require a recall if necessary, to make sure these explosions stop.”
Schumer said that because e-cigarettes were not regulated until this past week, potential dangers could have flown under the radar. But with its clear authority now, the FDA has the power to regulate e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which Schumer strongly backed. The new rule allows the agency to regulate e-cigarettes, like they do traditional cigarettes. With this new authority, Schumer said that the FDA should finally investigate why e-cigarettes continue to explode and determine whether the devices’ batteries, tanks or atomizers are flawed. Schumer said that the FDA should require a recall if their investigation concludes a serious pattern that endangers consumers.
More than 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes and that number is growing. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a mechanism inside the device that heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor that smokers then inhale and exhale.
Reports of exploding e-cigarettes have occurred throughout the country, including in New York. For instance, just this past month, an e-cigarette exploded in the face of a 14-year old Brooklyn boy at a vape shop at Kings Plaza Mall in Mill Basin. According to reports, the boy is now blind in his left eye. Metal shards from the e-cigarette’s battery penetrated both of his eyes and left a large gash on his hands. Prior to this incident, a Queens woman was badly burned when a e-cigarette’s battery suddenly exploded in her pants pocket while behind the wheel of her car. The accident caused burning to her right leg and knee; she was taken to the hospital for third-degree burns. On Long Island, a Malverne resident was burned when an e-cigarette battery burst into flames in his pocket. And, again, this past month, a 17-year old Ogden resident was hospitalized when his e-cigarette exploded in his face, burning his face, hands, and throat.
In 2014, the U.S. Fire Administration issued a report on electronic cigarette fires and explosions. Data used in this report was collected using media reports so there are likely scores more that were not reported to the media or to local fire departments, according to the senator’s office. According to this report, there were at several exploding e-cigarette incidents between 2009-2014. Nine injuries were associated with these incidents, including two serious burns. According to the report, when compared to other products with lithium-ion batteries, the shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them more likely to behave like “flaming rockets” when the battery fails. Eighty percent of the reported incidents occurred while charging the e-cigarette. Schumer said that this report suggests that the FDA should investigate the safety of these batteries as soon as possible, especially as more and more children and teens begin to pick them up.