Injuries Left Behind from the E-Cig Trend

Chris J. Roy Jr. A Professional Law Corporation Profile Image

Practice Areas: Personal Injury

For years, smoking was not acceptable in the United States, but it was promoted and advertised in magazines, ball parks, and even at the movies. When James Dean crossed the screen with a smoke dangling from the corner of his lips, it was cool; or when John Wayne smoked before storming into some dangerous situation or another, it was tough. But in recent years, as the dangerous side effects of smoking became known, efforts to encourage people became more popular, until smoking now carries a sort of social stigma, and harsher laws are in place to smoking products out of the hands of children.

Alternative to Smoking

While these efforts at smoking cessation have been effective, a new alternative has become widely available in recent years: In 2003, Chinese Pharmacist Hon Lik invented the modern electronic cigarette, a device that heats a liquid containing several chemicals, sometimes including nicotine, sometimes not, into a vapor that can be inhaled.

The e-cig, or vaping, has gained ready acceptance, among both those using it for an alternative to smoking and people who still smoke. Euromonitor International, a group dedicated solely to researching electronic cigarettes, estimates that in 2015 there were 10.8 million vape users, and the industry generated $3.5 in sales. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as of 2014, 3.7 percent of American adults, or roughly 9 million Americans, used e-cigs on a daily basis, and 12.6 percent tried them. Other statistics show that 22 percent of recent smokers have switched completely

This is good news for anti-tobacco advocates, but overall, the news may not be as good as proponents think. As no long-term studies have been done, the long-term effects of vaping are unknown. However, the short-term dangers have become well-known.

Dangers May be Worse

The e-cig is prone to explosion because of its lithium-ion batteries, and the cases have been well-documented. In an Associated Press story run in the Denver Post last December, they mention several examples, including a woman whose e-cig exploded in her pocket, giving her third-degree burns. Another young woman at an amusement park in Orlando was injured when another visitor’s e-cig exploded and shot a fireball at her.

Not an Isolated Event

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the organization that monitors e-cigarettes, recorded 66 explosions in 2015-2016, a stark increase from the 92 found from 2009-2015. These numbers may be drastically underreported, as one hospital in Seattle reported 23 injuries just in their hospital since 2015.

Who is Liable?

Of the victims who have suffered from the explosions, several have filed personal injury lawsuits against the e-cig manufacturers. As most of the devices are made in China, the same restrictions and oversight that would regulate them here are absent. As a result, several of the lawsuits have been successful, including one in which a California attorney won nearly $2 million in a product-liability suit against the manufacturer.

So while theoretically proving to be an effective tool in the battle to stop smoking, the long-term effects of vaping are still up in the air. The dangers of an explosion, however, are evident, and may make people think twice about how they stop using tobacco. 

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