February 20, 2019

Tips to prevent vaping injuries

UW Health has seen an increase in serious injuries from vaping devices.

In the past year, we treated five patients, up from zero the year before. The majority of the injured were middle and high school-aged teens. While fires and explosions from vaping are considered rare, these incidents can be life altering for victims. 

An e-cig device or battery can explode while it is being carried, like in a shirt or jeans pocket. When it explodes, it can start clothing on fire, which makes it difficult to remove the clothes or even put out the fire. As a result, burns occur suddenly and close to sensitive areas such as the face, hands, even the legs and genitals. Several of the patients seen at University Hospital for e-cigarette related injuries required skin grafting because the burns were severe.

The facts

Note: "e-cigarette" will be used generically to refer to any or all e-cigarettes, e-cigs, Juuls, personal vaporizers (PVs), electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), mods or similar devices.

  • E-cigarettes reach very high temperatures in order to convert liquid to vapor.

  • E-cigarettes use lithium ion batteries, which are prone to spontaneously overheating.

  • There are no requirements that e-cigarettes be subjected to product safety testing.

  • Many users carry extra batteries to ensure they will be able to vape frequently. The batteries alone can overheat.

  • Explosions are not the only risk associated with e-cigarette use. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has extensive information on the risk of e-cigarette use.

Safety tips

  • Do not dispose any battery in a fire. There are dangerous chemicals in batteries which can lead to toxic fumes and/or an explosion.

  • Do not carry loose batteries in a pocket or purse. Use a battery carry case.

  • Do not carry or store batteries with coins and house keys or in a metal container. Batteries can short circuit and release large amounts of energy. 

  • Check the outside of the battery to be sure wrappers are fully intact and do not use if they are torn or ripped in any way. The wrappers provide insultation and can help minimize the risk of overheating.

  • Always charge batteries on an appropriate charger.