Exploding E-Cigarette Problems to be Subject of FDA Hearing In April

Federal regulatory officials will meet in April to address concerns over exploding electronic cigarette batteries and how to make the controversial devices safer for public use. 

According to a Federal Register notice published on January 4, the FDA, in conjunction with the Center for Tobacco Products (CPT), will hold a public two day workshop on April 19 and 20, on electronic cigarette explosions and fires. The workshop will allow the public and tobacco industry to contribute ideas and recommendations to address electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) battery safety concerns.

As e-cigs and vaping have increased in popularity in recent years, there have been a growing number of reports where the devices and their batteries exploded or caught on fire. Dozens of e-cigarette problems have been reported nationwide. The American Burn Association indicates several hundred injuries occurred in 2015 from e-cigarettes.

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The FDA warns that the true rate of injuries is under reported because typically the incidents of e-cigarette injuries, burns and explosions are reported to federal agencies after media outlets publicize the incidents. Researchers from the FDA believe that many consumers do not report explosions or overheating incidents due to either lack of injury or interest to report.

Those that have been reported have included accounts of the devices exploding while recharging, while in people’s pockets and in some cases, while in use, resulting in severe hand and face injuries.

In a list of all of the media and federally recognized e-cigarette explosion injury reports last year by Ecigone.com, the website reported that 25% of problems identified occurred during use of the devices, and roughly 44% occurred during charging, with all incidents stemming from overheating or exploding lithium ion batteries.

Those findings appear to confirm the widespread belief that the explosions are being caused by the lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cigarettes, which may lack adequate overheating and power surge safeguards. According to the FDA, which recently took control of regulation over e-cigarettes and all tobacco products, many overheating reports and explosion are due to cheap lithium-ion batteries shipped from overseas that were not regulated.

Some research has shown these overheating and explosion events occur because the batteries lack fail-safe mechanisms that control maximum temperatures, ultimately allowing the devices to explode. Among other contributing factors that cause explosions are incorrect charging ports and damaged batteries.

The devices have become so widely recognized as fire hazards that several government agencies have banned the products from boarding flights or fleet vehicles..

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned all forms of electronic smoking devices from checked baggage on aircrafts, and e-cigarette devices and batteries may not be charged aboard any aircraft. The rule was finalized by the agency following several recent reports of e-cigarettes catching on fire inside of checked luggage.

The public workshop will be open for the public, and will include tobacco product manufacturers, importers, researchers, and academic investigators. Individuals who wish to attend the workshop must register by March 17, 2017. Electronic or written comments will also be accepted by the docket up until May 22, 2017.


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