UK surgeons want stricter regulation of e-cigarettes after spate of explosions injure users

A posed picture of a man smoking an e-cigarette.
A posed picture of a man smoking an e-cigarette. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Doctors and fire chiefs are recommending more stringent regulations for popular e-cigarettes after a spate of incidents involving exploding e-cigarettes, Sky News reported today (Oct 9).

Plastic surgeons at Swansea's Morriston Hospital's Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery said they had treated burns of five patients after e-cigarette batteries exploded.

Consultant plastic surgeon Dai Nguyen told Sky News that the popularity of e-cigarettes has led to more incidents of injuries from malfunctioning gadgets: "Before this year we hadn't seen any injuries like this. Now we have had five which reflects the rising popularity of these e-cigarettes."

Three of the five patients had the devices in their trouser pockets when the e-cigarettes exploded.

One patient, Mr Michael Bennett, hospitalised for 10 days in February after his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket while he was roller-skating with his son. He needed skin grafts and has yet to fully recover.

"It was a scary experience. What really gets me is that I could have been picking (my son) up off the floor when it blew up and it would have blown into his face. It could have blinded him," Mr Bennett told Sky News.

He said he purchased the device from a reputable shop.

The increasing number of accidents has caused concern with doctors, who have recommended more stringent import regulations on e-cigarettes as well as more guidance for consumers.

Currently, the advice in the UK is for consumers is to shop only in reputable stores and on well-reviewed websites, and to look out for the 'CE' mark on devices.

In Singapore, however, electronic smoking devices including e-cigarettes are banned under Section 16 of the Tobacco Act. The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act here prohibits the import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any item designed to resemble a tobacco product, including vapourisers.

Buying e-cigarettes from overseas websites or bringing them into the country in hand luggage is also considered importing.

Offenders may be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence, and up to $10,000 subsequently.

The phenomenon of exploding e-cigarettes is not limited to the UK.

In Orlando, Florida on Oct 1, a 14-year-old girl suffered mild to moderate burns after an e-cigarette exploded in a nearby college student's pocket. CNN reported the incident happened while she was on the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios.

The teen was with her family when the device shot a ball of flame in the air after it malfunctioned. According to police and CNN affiliate WESH, the college student fled the scene with three others.

CNN affiliate WESH said that the explosion left a small burn hole on the ride seat but caused no other significant damage.

In February, Mr Tom Kiklas of the Tobacco Vapour Electronic Cigarette Association told CNN that "there have been 22 such incidents reported since 2008, when these products hit the market".

Previous e-cigarette incidents have caused burns to tongues, hands and thighs, and even lungs.

A CNN report in May reported an e-cigarette blowing up during a vaping session. Mr Kenneth Barbero from Albany, New York, was seriously injured. The explosion knocked out his teeth, ripped a hole in his tongue and left his hands covered in burns.

"(It was) like an M80 bomb went off in my mouth," Mr Barbero told CNN affiliate WTEN.

One of the worst reported accidents happened last October. Mr Evan Spahlinger of Naples, Florida, was left in an intensive care unit and underwent surgery after an e-cigarette exploded in his face. The 21-year-old suffered internal and external burns as well as damage to his lungs from the explosion.