Following a string of new reports on “exploding e-cigarettes”, New York Senator, Chuck Schumer, decided to take a stand on the issue, calling the electronic vaping devices “ticking time bombs” and demanding that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the FDA investigate and take appropriate action.
As if vaping didn’t have enough enemies already, you can now add Democratic Party Senator Chuck Schumer to the list. Last Sunday morning, he held a press conference citing recent “explosion” data released by the Food and Drug Administration, and asking for manufacturers of defective and dangerous e-cigarettes to be held accountable.
It sounds like a commendable effort on the New York Senator. You know, he really cares about the safety of the American people, and he’s taking a stand. Damn it, somebody has to! These darned electronic cigarettes are putting people in hospitals with severe burns and other physical injuries, and nobody seems to care. Is the media reporting all these explosions for nothing? Wake up, people!
Seriously, though, I don’t even know who to blame for all this. Big media, is first on my list, actually, for spreading false news and conveniently failing to mention very important details about the stories they report. People like Chuck Shummer just buy into this blatant misinformation and are too lazy to actually fact check everything they read and hear. It’s one thing to simply believe it, but to come out in front of the public and propagate these lies is simply unacceptable for a respectable politician (if there even is such a thing).
“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 during his press conference. “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.”
“E-cigarettes have become ticking time bombs, and while the devices go boom, the industry is silent,” he ominously added.
That sounds downright scary, to the point where I’m looking at my 200W, dual-18650 battery mod right now wondering if should be using it so close to my face. No, not really, but I am convinced that many casual or simply uneducated vapers feel that way. Having a large battery powered device blow up in your face, or anywhere near your body is a terrifying prospect. But what the media, Schumer or even the FDA won’t tell you is that it doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, and when it does, it usually involves human error.
K.M. Abraham, one of the pioneers of the Li-ion battery and a professor at Northeastern University, told Consumer Reports that the chances of a lithium-ion battery (the most common type used in modern electronic devices) malfunctioning on its own are extremely low. “Lithium-ion batteries have a failure rate that’s less than one in a million,” he said. By comparison, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that the chances of a person being struck by lightning during their lifetime is 1 in 13,000.
But here’s the part that really matters – the vast majority of e-cigarette battery explosions or fires are caused by human error. The U.S. Fire Administration (FEMA) reports that 80% of e-cigarette explosions occur during charging, due to the use of a different charger than the one provided by the manufacturer. Modern gadgets all come with miniUSB or microUSB ports these days and people use whatever cables they have on hand, which often leads to this sort of accidents.
After a much talked-about e-cigarette incident in April 2014, Charley Pugsley, a member of the London Fire Brigade said the following: “People assume e-cigarettes are much safer than ordinary cigarettes, and in most cases they are. The danger is that people sometimes use incorrect chargers,which runs the risk of over-charging, which can potentially have explosive results. As with all rechargeable electrical equipment, it’s of vital importance that people use the correct type of charger for their e-cigs to prevent fires.”
Using a different charger can damage the e-cigarette, causing it to explode or catch fire at the worst possible moment. But the media, hardly ever mentions this fact. They just say e-cigarettes explode, they are dangerous, they are putting people’s lives at risk. Yes, they do rarely explode, and these incidents can be life threatening, but two half-truths don’t make a whole truth. E-cigs are dangerous if handled incorrectly, but that applies to any battery-powered device.
Also, regarding the growing number of reports of vaping devices catching fire in people’s pockets or even in their mouths, a bit of research again reveals that, in most cases, the cause is human error. Whether they fail to lock their devices while storing them, causing them to accidentally activate and overheat, or simply put their batteries in the same place with metal object, which can lead to short circuits, the users are almost always to blame. Otherwise, don’t you think we’d be seeing a crazy number of lawsuits against e-cigarette manufacturers and vendors?
Using mechanical mods – simple metal tubes powered by large-capacity batteries – without the necessary technical knowledge is also a frequent cause of these explosions. These things have no built-in protection, so if anything goes wrong, the battery goes boom. There are several things that lead to what is known as a “thermal runaway” – the internal temperature of the battery increase to the point where it explodes or catches fire – and you need to know how to safely operate them, or you are putting yourself at risk. Many of the incidents reported by the media involve such devices, but they refer to them generically as “e-cigarettes”. They are NOT electronic cigarettes!
But I digress, back to Senator Chuck Schumer. He even invited a person who had suffered an “e-cigarette explosion” to his press conference, to show the world that this is not just a made up issue. Katrina Williams is a New York woman who earlier this year reportedly had an “e-cigarette” blow up in her pants pocket while driving. At least that’s what the media reported. However, the New York Daily News mentions that the “electronic cigarette” was actually an LG IMR 18650 battery she had bought at the VapeEasy shop, in New York. She claims that there was nothing else in her pocket, and that it blew up for no apparent reason. The jury is still out on that, but the fact remains that it was a BATTERY that exploded, not an e-cigarette. So if Schumer wants to take on the battery industry, good luck, but don’t make this about e-cigarettes when you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.
If you had an AAA battery that you were going to use in an alarm clock blow up in your pocket, would you accuse the alarm clock manufacturer? Because that’s exactly what Schumer is doing here, by having Williams at the press conference to justify his attack on e-cigs.
“I am calling on two groups, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the FDA, to immediately investigate and determine which e-cigarette and e-cigarette batteries are the most volatile,” the New York Senator said. “It’s enough to send the alarm bells. We haven’t seen a single recall of any brand of e-cigarette.”
What the hell are you talking about, man? Recalls? That applies to devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which has a notorious manufacturing defect, but why would you talk about e-cigarette recalls when the statistics clearly show that the vast majority of problems are caused by user error? You’re not making any sense!
I would honestly get behind Senator Chuck Schumer if he was asking for clearer packaging warnings and instructions of use for battery-powered devices, including e-cigarettes. That would definitely help prevent such tragic accidents from happening, but instead he wants to hold the e-cigarette industry responsible for problems beyond their control. And he’s getting away with it too, thanks to biased media reporting.
This is a long article, and it’s a mess – for which I apologize – but there was just so much I wanted to say on this over-hyped subject that I just didn’t pay attention to structure at all. I hope it wasn’t too painful to read.