E-cigarettes 'ticking time bombs' for unsuspecting users

The smoking alternative is drawing concern for recent safety issues.

As you get ready to travel for the holidays, you could be sitting next to a ticking time bomb. That's the warning from one senator after an e-cigarette exploded in a man's pocket on a bus.

AAA tells 10News that more than 103 million Americans — the most on record —are expected to travel for the holidays.

E-cigarettes are exploding on planes, buses and in stores. New York senator Charles Schumer is putting the heat on the feds to consider recalling exploding batteries and devices. 

“It's terrifying to see people hurting themselves and blowing up. There are a lot of videos out there,” said Adam Wooddy, owner of Satyr Vapor in Fresno, California.

 

That's for sure. This viral video shows a Fresno bus driver warning a passenger about using his e-cigarette. The man puts it away; seconds later sparks and flames fly from his pants pocket. Investigators say the e-cig's battery is likely the source of the blast.

The e-cig fires are happening at 30,000 feet, too. Last week, American Airlines Flight 1129 from Dallas to Indianapolis had to divert to Little Rock, Arkansas, after an e-cig caught fire in a passenger's carry-on bag. 

“I hope this sets an example for people to not take e-cigarettes on board,” said passenger Susan Karimi.

The FAA has banned the devices in checked baggage, but they can still be carried onboard. They cannot be charged while on board.

A New York liquor store worker is still recovering from serious burns after smoke and fire shot from his pocket at coworkers a few weeks ago.

“This e-cigarette didn't just explode, it exploded a number of times,” said victim Otis Gooding’s attorney, Sanford Rubenstein. “Clearly, government authorities need to intervene, with regard to the sales of these e-cigarettes, so that what happened to this victim won't happen to anybody else."

The Federal Drug Administration ties e-cigarettes to 66 explosions last year into early 2016. Many are linked to the lithium ion battery. Overcharging, manufacturing defects and punctures can cause it to overheat, sometimes triggering a fiery reaction.

“These batteries are fragile. They have a wrap on the outside that needs to stay intact. If that battery gets torn and starts to touch metal, something like loose change in your pocket or something like that, it can definitely short out the battery,” said Wooddy.

Senator Schumer wants the Consumer Product Safety Commission and FDA to uncover exactly why the devices are exploding, be it a design problem, battery problem or operator error.

“E-cigarettes have become ticking time bombs, and we're here today to disarm them before they injure more unsuspecting people,” said Schumer.

Experts suggest e-cig users should buy American, since 90 percent of the products come from China with fewer regulations, and buy a reputable domestic brand. Users are urged to read the instructions; don’t hold down the button too long, use the correct charger and don't charge it too long to help prevent the device from going up in flames.

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association points out that millions of people use the devices with only a few accidents. TVECA does support responsible regulation saying, “When you don't have oversight, companies who want to make a quick buck buy batteries and equipment that aren't up to snuff.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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