Another Battery Explosion Lawsuit Puts Spotlight On Vaping
Media coverage of extremely rare battery explosions reinforces wrong ideas about vaping and its benefits.
Charles Hobbs’ of Wilmington, Delaware is suing the shop where he purchased the spare battery that exploded and left him with “extensive burns to his lower extremities”. Mr. Hobbs’ case echos several others that have found their way into the national headlines over the last few years. One such incident was caught on security camera in Owensboro, Kentucky. Josh Hamilton was standing in line at a local gas station in February 2016, when suddenly the e-cigarette in his pocket exploded and instantly covered both his legs and pants with ignited battery acid.
Stories like this hit close to home for vapers by painting a gruesome picture out of something we not only do daily, but really love. And while these accidents are truly terrible and scary, even the most modest of vaping enthusiast understands that the likelihood of something bad happening is substantially lower than with many of the other potentially dangerous activities we engage in everyday such as driving. The real issue for the industry may be that a majority of non-smokers/vapers believe that nicotine vapor is just as harmful as traditional tobacco smoke.
How Rare is Rare?
The U.S. Fire Administration did a report in 2014 that found only 25 instances of batteries exploding in e-cigarettes between 2009 and August 2014. A full 80% of these explosions occurred while the battery was charging, with only three reported cases happening while being used or stored. Advanced users appear to be safest, as Mods tend to be a lot less prone to critical failure as well as the fact that continued use of Mods is generally correlated with learning safer battery practices. Considering the report noted that over 2.5 million Americans vape regularly, you only have a .0003% chance of your battery exploding (based on three uses a day). By anyone’s measure this is a worthwhile risk, especially when compared with the estimated 480,000 deaths each year caused by smoking cigarettes.
FEMA, who has done a lot of the research into exploding e-cigarettes found that, “all of the incidents reviewed involved ‘vape pens’ or ‘twists,’ which more closely resemble traditional cigarettes in appearance. These twists are intended to be recharged using a USB port built into the e-cigarette and a power adapter supplied with the device.” Furthermore, there’s never been any proof that even the most likely to fail vaporizers explode any more often than any other given ion battery powered device. So the question remains, why does vaping often get singled out?
The news media is often known for sensationalizing anything that may give them some buzz. The vaping industry knows this well and has experienced both sides of this kind of press many times in its short history. But over the last few years the media has all but completely turned their back on the vaping community, often choosing to paint it in an increasingly negative light.
Lawsuits like the ones noted above are picked up by news outlets all over the country looking to cash in on the negative image of vaping that they themselves have perpetuated on the general public. At best it’s a selfish mislead away from the well understood advantages of vaping over smoking, and at worst it’s used as reasoning to potentially ban public vaping right alongside traditional smoking.
The Sad Results
The efforts of news media, malicious or not, have succeeded in equating vaping and traditional smoking in the non-vaping public eye. A survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that almost three quarters of respondents didn’t think that vaping was any safer than smoking. In fact, even though Public Health England reported earlier this year that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, only 7.1% of respondents of a national youth survey believed that vaping was any safer than smoking.
This has got to be remedied says Professor David T. Sweanor and assistant professor Lynn T. Kozlowski, “These consumers and potential consumers have a fundamental right (based on the principles of autonomy, health communication, and health literacy) to be well aware of the dramatic differential harms from the various products they are already or might consider using.” Because of the continued misinformation, it remains critically important to educate about the benefits of vaping. If we don’t stand up now, we may lose another generation to the unnecessary risks of tobacco smoke.
Check back soon for more on the continued effort to educate while fighting the misinformation on vaping.