You’ve probably heard the sad story of James Lauria, a 23-year-old from Cobb County, Georgia, who suffered severe injuries after his mechanical mod blew up in his face while he was vaping. The story was all over the news these last few weeks, and while the media keeps talking about the dangers posed by e-cigarettes and the serious harm suffered by Lauria, no mainstream news site has so far offered any kind of explanation as to what may have caused the explosion.
The horrific accident took place on July 29th, during one of James’ work breaks. He had stepped out for a few hits on his e-cig, just like he had done hundreds of times since he started vaping, only this time it was different. The mod exploded while he had it in his mouth, and the next thing he remembers is lying in an ambulance on his way to the hospital. His injuries were so severe that he had to be flown to the University of Alabama’s burn unit, where he spent more than a week in the ICU.
The force of the explosion blew a hole through his palate, pushed one of his front teeth back into the gums to the point where it’s not even visible and chipped a few others. It also left James Lauria with a fractured neck, a fractured finger, burns to his hand, chest and even his cornea. All in all, he was in pretty bad shape, but even though he still has a long recovery period to go through and is still on a liquid food diet, James says he knows how lucky he is to be alive. He also wants to prevent this sort of thing from happening to other vapers.
That’s commendable, but reading through the hundreds of news articles covering his story, I couldn’t find a single piece of advice or warning meant to keep others from suffering the same thing, other than the implied notion that e-cigarettes are dangerous and the best way to keep safe is not to use them. Just go back to smoking tobacco, there’s a high chance it will kill you in the long run, but at least it won’t blow up in your face.
Luckily, the vaping community has come up with an actual explanation to James Lauria’s accident, based mainly on a photo of the damaged mod and battery he was using, which are now in the custody of the fire department that responded to the 911 call. The picture shows he was using a mechanical hybrid mod with what looks to be an Aspire Atlantis sub-ohm tank. If you’ve had some experience with mech mods and hybrids in particular, this is probably explanation enough, but for the rest of you I will try to explain it the best I can.
Hybrid mods are different than other mechanical mods in that the positive pin of the atomizer comes directly in contact with the battery, theoretically transferring power better. From the looks of it, James used a hybrid adapter to connect an Aspire Atlantis sub-ohm tank to his mechanical mod. What he probably didn’t know is that’s a big no-no considering the design of the Atlantis’ connection pin. Usually, the pin of most rebuildable atomizers and tanks protrudes further than the 510 threading surrounding it, but not on the Atlantis. So when James connected his tank to the mod, the battery came in contact not only with the center pin but also with the 510 threading causing a short circuit.
Using a hybrid mod or a hybrid adapter on a mech mod with a sub-ohm tank is usually a recipe for disaster, and unfortunately James Lauria found that out the hard way. But, as sorry as I feel for him, it’s still human error, and trying to make his story about electronic cigarettes instead is just wrong. With the kind of media attention James’ story has gotten lately, I’m pretty sure many casual vapers have given up on e-cigs out of fear that this might actually happen to them. And who can blame them, really? The media offers no kind of explanation as to why the battery blew up, it just tells us that it did and that it caused severe injuries. Hell, I’d be scared to if I didn’t know anything about how e-cigs and mods work.
What happened to James Lauria sucks, but it has nothing to do with e-cigarettes or vaping in general. The batteries and the mod did not malfunction, they did what they normally do when you short them. In fact, the vast majority of e-cigarette or e-cig battery explosions can be attributed to human error. Whether it be charging e-cigs with a different charger than the one provided by the manufacturer, carrying a spare battery in your pocket along with metallic objects, or making dangerous modifications to a device, it almost always comes down to human error.
The least the media could do is present the facts.