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Electronic cigarettes are among the latest exploding devices

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Electronic cigarettes experienced a significant rise in popularity in the early years after they came on the market as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Their sales rose to some $2 billion last year.

Some e-cigs contain no tobacco, while others use it to give the liquid contained in the e-cigs a flavor reminiscent of cigarettes. However, it’s not burned, so users don’t ingest the toxic chemicals they would if they smoked a traditional cigarette.

Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration has, in recent years, raised concerns over the safety of e-cigs as well as other products used for “vaping,” Now they are imposing regulations on these vapor products, including a requirement to register with the FDA, that could put many companies that manufacture them out of business.

Now another safety concern with e-cigs has emerged. There have been instances of them exploding, causing burn injuries to consumers. Just this month, a man was seriously burned here in New York when an e-cig in his pocket caught fire. The incident, which occurred in a store inside Grand Central Terminal, was caught on a surveillance camera.

The culprit seems to be the lithium-ion batteries that power the devices. They can overheat and cause the device they’re in to explode or catch fire. This is the same type of battery that’s been blamed for exploding hover boards, smartphones and laptops. Most recently, Samsung pulled its Galaxy Note 7 off the market after multiple reports of the devices catching fire.

Electronic cigarettes can present a potentially greater danger than these other items if they catch fire, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. That’s because their design and shape can cause them “to behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails.”

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association asserts that instances of e-cigs catching fire are rare. The group says the problem is preventable if consumers use only the chargers included with their particular device. It also says that coins can cause the devices to short circuit, so it’s best not to keep them in your pocket along with your loose change.

Whether consumers are going to risk the chance of their e-cigarette exploding or simply opt for a patch or some other smoking cessation aid remains to be seen. Anyone who is injured by any exploding device (yours or someone else’s) would be wise to find out what their legal options are.

Source: The Motley Fool, “Forget the FDA: Electronic Cigarettes Face an Even More Hazardous Risk,” Rich Duprey, Nov. 10, 2016

Jason Fuiman

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Co-Managing Partner and Chair of O'Dwyer & Bernstien's Labor & Employee Benefits practice, Jason has over twenty years of experience in the New York legal industry.