New York Senator Chuck Schumer is declaring war on e-cigarettes. Schumer held a news conference on Sunday where he decried e-cigarettes, claiming they were “ticking time bombs” and suggested there should be a recall. Via Associated Press:
Schumer cited a recent Associated Press story saying the FDA identified about 66 explosions in 2015 and early 2016 after recording 92 explosions from 2009 to September 2015.
He said he wants the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to figure out why so many devices, many from China, are exploding. He said the recent injuries are proof federal action is needed.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and that seems to be the case — again and again — for many popular e-cigarettes that have injured dozens of people,” Schumer said. “With any other product, serious action would have been taken and e-cigarettes should be no exception. Despite the explosions, no recalls have been issued. It’s radio silence from both the industry and the feds, so that’s why I’m sounding the alarm.”
The question is whether or not it’s a design problem with e-cigarettes and vaping devices, a battery problem, or an issue with how people are using them. Schumer had Katrina Williams at the news conference, a New York woman who was seriously injured when her e-cigarette exploded while she was driving home. New York Daily News reported what happened earlier this year.
Williams started using e-cigarettes to kick her smoking habit and recently bought the LG IMR 18650 battery at the VapeEasy shop on Canal St.
[ Attorney Marc ] Freund said there is no obvious explanation for the malfunction.
“There have been incidents where the battery comes into contact with water, or loose change, but this one is unexplainable,” he said. “There was nothing in her pocket. The battery wasn’t attached to anything.”
Sounds pretty scary, right? It means the government should immediately demand e-cigarette companies recall ALL items until the government declares them “safe,” right? To quote President-elect Donald Trump, “Wrong.” Via info-electronic-cigarette.com:
According to FEMA, 80% of e-cigarette explosions happen during charging. In a variety of reports, several of which we will investigate later, the cause is often linked to the use of an alternative charger, one that was not sold with the battery that was charging. What this means is that the majority of the damage caused by e-cigarette malfunction.
In our research we found the same trend; surveying 30 separate cases from 2012 to 2015 we found 22 cases where the fire started while the device was charging. The remaining 8 exploded either in the users’ possession, in their pocket or hand, or it was undisclosed by the media at the time of the incidence.
Researchers at Cooper University Hospital also looked at one malfunction where the e-cigarette exploded in someone’s pocket. They believe it was a problem with the lithium battery.
Many e-cigarettes use lithium batteries due to their ability to store large amounts of energy in a compact amount of space. However, the inherent characteristics of lithium batteries can pose a risk of fire and explosion. Partial thickness burns caused by spontaneously exploding mobile phones has been described in the literature. The lithium ion battery has separately been described as the “mini bomb in your pocket,” due to its known ability to spontaneously ignite. Poor design, use of low-quality materials, manufacturing flaws and defects, and improper use and handling can all contribute to a condition known as ‘thermal runway,’ whereby the internal battery temperature can increase to the point of causing a battery fire or explosion.
So the issue is either user error (using the wrong charger) or a screw up in the lithium battery itself. This doesn’t mean Schumer should get his way and have the government play “mommy” on the e-cigarette issue. The reality is lithium battery explosions don’t happen that often (Consumer Reports reported in September people are more likely to be struck by lightning than have a battery fail), and there are too many benefits of lithium batteries.
The same goes for e-cigarettes. I know a lung doctor who has endorsed e-cigs and vaping to help people quit smoking. A friend of mine has gone from smoking a pack and a half a day to just vaping (he also went from 18mg of nicotine to zero in six months). There’s no reason for the federal government to get involved in e-cigarettes, whether it be through regulations or recalls. The only reason for them to be considering anything like this is to go with the stupid notion of, “Oh, the government recommends it, so it must be safe!” It’s either that or the tax money the government is hoping to get from enacting said regulations.
But there’s also an element of fear among people who don’t understand the difference between e-cigs/vaping and smoking. Local governments have enacted bans on vaping because people swear they’re “smelling something” whenever they see others vape. There actually is science out there proving “second-hand vaping” isn’t as big of a deal as people would want it to be. People are going to have to learn to relax and “get over it,” as science and technology changes. This includes Schumer (even if he doesn’t want to).