Electronic cigarettes just keep getting more and more popular. You can now find them at gas stations, online retailers and specialty shops. But Dwayne Cahill, of Rising Sun, said he'll think twice about ever using one again, after his e-cigarette exploded while he was using it.
"I'll stick to the old style," he said. "Lighter and tobacco, that's where it's going to be for me."
A longtime smoker, Cahill switched to an electronic cigarette for the convenience factor.
"To me, was an alternative to smoke while riding my Harley," he said. "Instead of pulling over, lighting up a cigarette. Just pull it out of your pocket, use the product and put it right back in your pocket."
He still smokes, but he quit e-cigs cold turkey.
"I won't try anything electronic when it comes to smoking now," he said.
Cahill explained he was driving while using a VUSE digital vapor cigarette, when it got extremely hot and the nicotine cartridge blew off.
"The light went out instantly and 'Wham!' This thing was hot, literally too hot to hang onto," he said.
"I wouldn't want this happening to anybody else," Cahill said. "I got lucky, it just caught me in the cheek. What's to say it doesn't catch somebody in the eye? Down their throat, their nose, something like that."
ABC2 In Focus reached out to Reynolds American, Inc., the maker of VUSE. Senior Director of Communications David P. Howard wrote in an e-mail:
"Mr. Cahill contacted our consumer relations department on February 8 to report an incident that purportedly occurred with our product in early January. We provided Mr. Cahill with a mailer to return the product for evaluation, but he declined to do so. There have been no similar incidents reported to us and we currently have no means to further evaluate Mr. Cahill's statements."
There is no government agency tracking the statistics, but a 2014 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report noted 25 incidents of fire or explosions caused by e-cigarettes from 2009 to 2014, based on information from news reports. These explosions happen when the devices' lithium-ion batteries, which contain flammable liquid, get too hot.
"All of these things can be engineered appropriately, but that requires paying more for the product," said Dr. Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center. Wachsman and his team are in the process of developing a lithium-ion battery that cannot catch fire. In the meantime, there are a few things consumers can do.
"Right now, all you can do is make sure you're buying a quality product," he said. "Follow the instructions about charging and discharging. I understand with some of these e-cigarettes, there's been an issue with people using different chargers for them. The charge rate has to be matched to the battery in the cigarette, so if they're using a different charger they may actually exceed the charge rate that the battery can take."
Cahill said he only charged his e-cigarette once, using the charger provided. He said he's not taking any chances again.
"I won't even try somebody else's product now," he said. "It's just lured me away from any type of electronic cigarette. Other manufacturers may come out with a great product, but it's not going to be me who tries it."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for regulating e-cigarettes and ensuring the actual devices are not defective. You can report any health effects or safety issues you experience while using these products to the FDA here.