Here’s a grim warning for vaping millennials and anyone else who uses an e-cigarette: A Florida man is in a medically induced coma at a Miami hospital after his e-cig exploded in his face Monday morning like a cheap vaudeville cigar gag.
The family of Evan Spahlinger, 21, tells TV news station WINK he was badly burned and remains in critical condition.
“I found my brother not breathing, with his whole face burned and his neck burned and trying to throw up a little or maybe he was gasping for air, so I called 911,” sister Ema Richardson told reporters.
Spahlinger is the latest victim of the little-known design flaw that’s left a trail of burned and broken vapers. The issue is the lithium-ion battery, the same kind powering our laptop’s cellphones. However, unlike those devices, e-cigs are especially sensitive to overheating as smokers plug them into incompatible chargers.
Here’s how the U.S. Fire Administration explained it in the 2014 report: Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions:
“Few, if any, consumers understand that not all USB ports are “created equal.” The voltage and current provided by USB ports can vary significantly. Appendix 2 shows the current specifications for the various standard USB port definitions. (There are also nonstandard ports in use that do not match these specifications.) Without consulting the technical specifications for the USB power the technical specifications for the USB power source, it is difficult or impossible for a consumer to determine the power supplied by any particular USB port and even more difficult to determine whether it is safe to use with a particular e-cigarette.”
“As a result, plugging an e-cigarette into a USB port or power adapter not supplied by the manufacturer may subject the battery to higher current than is safe, leading to thermal runaway that results in an explosion and/or fire.”
“I’m aware of 10 failures in the last year,” Thomas Kiklas, of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, told NBC Chicago in October 2013. “When you charge them, they are 99.9 percent safe, but occasionally there will be failures.”
The explosions are rare, injuries rarer. The U.S. Fire Administration’s report catalogued 25 incidents of explosion and fire involving e-cigarettes between 2009 and August 2014, only nine of which resulted in injury, none fatal. Notable victims include a 57-year-old Vietnam vet who lost teeth and part of his tongue when a device went off like a “bottle rocket” between his lips in 2012, a woman who sued VapCigs in 2013 after their product shot a “blowtorch” of fire into her lap resulting in second degree burns, and an 18-year-old English girl whose dress caught fire when a co-worker’s e-cigarette exploded in 2014.
Here’s an e-cig explosion caught on camera. You can imagine how that would feel going off in your mouth.
Even with the relatively low probability that your vape will explode your head, it’s still statistically safer than smoking analogue cigarettes because tobacco just nut shots your immune system. Sadly, vapers continue run a 100 percent risk of looking like corny goobers. No cure for that.