E-cigarette explosions – The real reasons why it happens

When people switch to e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes, it’s usually for the sake of improving their health. With reports emerging since their introduction to the market in 2007 regarding explosions and fires, an improvement in health may at first glance lead to an increase in risk – but is this really true?

It’s important to note that the number of incidents reported between 2009 and 2014 was extremely small. In fact, only 25 incidents per 2.5 million units. It is also worth noting that as time passes, the devices themselves have not only become more advanced, but have also had more safeguards built in to prevent an explosion occurring.

When are e-cigarettes exploding?

In 80% of all reported cases, explosions have occurred during charging, with only two reports of the devices exploding when physically being used. Other incidents have occurred when devices are being transported, either in a bag or in someone’s pocket.

Why is it so hard to pin-down the cause of an explosion?

Among many manufacturers in the world, there’s a small percentage of unscrupulous companies which are willing to cut corners in order to shift more units. While this was a larger issue five years ago, many dubious companies have since been shut down or been put out of business through lawsuits.

Another issue is the lack of black-box style data regarding the treatment of the exploding devices before the incidents. Were the e-cigarettes dropped? Were they maintained properly? Were they modded prior to the explosions?

What are the likely causes behind the explosions?

  • Charging
    As e-cigarettes use the same charging ports as mobile devices, most people have several cables lying around in drawers and often consider them interchangeable. This however is not true, some adapters and cables are capable of carrying a higher voltage through their circuitry to allow for fast-charging compatible handsets and devices that require more electricity to run. As e-cigarette batteries do not require a higher voltage, overheating and thermal runaway can occur, leading to an explosion.
  • Li-ion batteries

The explosions usually occurs thanks to lithium ion batteries. Li-ion batteries pack a huge amount of charge into a highly compressed cell that when damaged can lead to disaster. This however, is not limited to e-cigarettes, as Li-ion batteries are found in all laptops, all mobile phones, and other consumer electronics – anyone aware of the ‘Hoverboard’ debacle will be more than able to attest to this. The explosions can occur as a result of a short-circuit (see Samsung Galaxy Note 7), bad design, or simply a defective unit – but it is worth mentioning that manufacturing processes get safer every year and the number of incidents across all electronics are dropping rapidly.

How do I minimise the risk of an e-cig explosion?

If you’re worried about e-cigarette explosions and the real reasons why it happens, we can help set your mind at rest.

If you’ve bought your e-cigarette from a reputable organisation, you can sleep soundly knowing there’s only a billion-to-one chance that your unit will develop a dangerous fault – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your device.

The following steps are great practice for anyone who vapes:

  1. Don’t overcharge – a battery is always at its healthiest when it is kept between 10% and 90%, leaving the charger plugged in when the battery is full will shorten its lifespan
  2. Use official chargers – cheap unreliable chargers sold en masse from China are not only unregulated, but also potentially dangerous. The cable that comes with your e-cigarette has been tested, certified and is 100% compatible with your device
  3. It’s not a toy – so don’t throw the device around, an unlucky knock could affect the internal circuitry and increase the risk of damage
  4. Used respected retailers – that box mod on eBay from a foreign seller may look awesome, but there’s a reason why it’s so cheap. There are plenty of well established, respected e-cigarette manufacturers who pride themselves on safety
  5. Avoid charging from a laptop – different voltage outputs from USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports as well as surges can damage the li-ion battery, so only use the mains adaptor provided

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