May 20, 2022 – A study shows that over a 4-year period, 15 teenagers were injured by e-cigarette explosions, according to surgeons who treated youngsters at nine hospitals in the United States.
“It was definitely an injury we saw frequently,” Shannon Acker, MD, assistant professor of pediatric surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said in a statement.
Report in the Surgical Research Journal, doctors detail injuries from e-cigarette explosions from January 2016 to December 2019. Ten teenagers were hospitalized, three of whom were admitted to intensive care units.
“When we think of e-cigarettes, vaping, and the problems of marketing cigarettes to teens, it usually has to do with addiction and lung damage,” said Acker, co-author of the new study. “As we as trauma surgeons see these other traumatic injuries.”
Six of the teenagers had burns to their faces, five of them had lost several teeth, five had burns around their thighs and groin, four had burns to their hands and four had burns to their eyes. A teenager has injured the radial nerve, which runs through the arm. Another cut their faces and another fractured his jaw.
Overall, six teenagers required surgery, including one who needed multiple surgeries for a serious hand injury.
Three of the teenagers had never used e-cigarettes before the day they were injured.
Vaping has become much more common than smoking traditional cigarettes among American teens in recent years. More than 2 million of them currently use e-cigarettes, according to the FDA, including more than 11% of high school students and nearly 3% of college students.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm healthy brain development in teens, according to the CDC. Other chemicals and flavorings in liquids heated during vaping can also damage the lungs. Fires and explosions, while rare, are also a risk that has already been documented by the FDA, CDC, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Nationwide, 195 explosions and fires involving e-cigarettes of all ages were reported between 2009 and 2016, according to a FEMA report. Although no fatalities were reported, 29% of these cases involved serious injury.
“The shape and construction of e-cigarettes” can cause them to behave like “flaming rockets when a battery fails,” according to FEMA.
Vaping devices typically use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that vaporizes the liquid nicotine solution, Acker says.
“They’re not very regulated and the batteries can be substandard and prone to exploding.”