John Uustal on ABC Local 10 News: Exploding e-cigs will soon be subject to regulatory oversight

The booming e-cigarette market has been largely unregulated since the devices first became popular. As the industry has grown, however, reports of e-cigarette explosions have begun cropping up all over the country. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, there have been more than 66 reports of e-cigarettes overheating, catching fire, or exploding, and it is believed that this number only scratches the surface of the true scope of the problem.

The stories of the injuries these devices have caused are terrifying. For example, a surveillance video at a Kentucky gas station captured the moment an e-cig burst into flames in a customer’s pocket. A New York woman suffered third degree burns on her leg in a similar accident. And in the case of Evan Spahlinger, a Florida man represented by Kelley/Uustal, an e-cigarette actually exploded during use. The device burst into flames in the man’s face, causing him to “inhale flames, smoke, and scorching hot air” and sending him into a medically induced coma. Attorney John J. Uustal said that the experience was “like a nightmare” for his client.
Spahlinger is now miraculously recovering from the accident, which left him with severe burns to his face and neck and serious injuries to his mouth, esophagus, and lungs.

What Causes E-Cigarette Accidents?

Most e-cigarette accidents occur when the battery explodes or catches fire during charging. According to a 2014 report conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration, the compact design of e-cigarettes can make them more likely to cause serious injury if the lithium-ion batteries fail. Furthermore, many of the devices lack ventilation, which can cause the battery to overheat and catch fire. Those who use e-cigarettes are advised to only use the batteries and chargers the device came with to avoid increasing the likelihood of an explosion.

The report concluded that there is a need for continued improvements in battery safety designs, perhaps including ventilation around the battery chamber and a weak spot on the end of the device that isn’t pointed directly at a user’s face.

As sales of e-cigarettes have continued to soar despite the many reports of injury, more people are calling for regulatory oversight of the industry. Currently, there are no codes, laws, or regulations governing the safety of the batteries or electronics in e-cigarettes, and companies are not required to test the safety of their products.

Until something changes, people will continue to be in danger. Kelley/Uustal is working hard to ensure not only that our client, Mr. Spahlinger, receives justice, but that these type of accidents will be prevented in the future.
For more on the unregulated e-cig market, including coverage of Kelley/Uustal’s representation of Evan Spahlinger, please visit ABC Local 10 News online to view Exploding e-cigs will soon be subject to regulatory oversight.

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