The Hidden and Explosive Danger of Electronic Cigarettes

While the FDA's authority has been extended to cover E-Cigarettes, no regulations have been put in place to govern the development and sale of e-cigarette batteries. This has made exploding E-Cigs a serious health threat on par with respiratory complications.

E-Cigarette Explosions
Steven Weston

Steven Weston

June 27, 2019 11:38 AM

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, vape pens, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), were first widely introduced to the U.S. market in 2007. Since then, the popularity of e-cigarettes has grown dramatically—and continues to expand at an incredible pace. It is estimated that, as of 2015, there were 2,750,000 e-cigarette smokers in the United States and sales of e-cigarette devices and accessories exceed $2.8 billion.

Much concern has been expressed by various medical associations, including by the American Medical Association (AMA), about the rapidly growing popularity of e-cigarettes among young high school and college-aged people. The primary medical concern that has been expressed has focused on the harmful and addictive high levels of nicotine and other substances being inhaled from e-cigarettes. Yet, a far more immediate and dangerous threat from the use of e-cigarettes is causing serious and permanent traumatic injuries.

Electronic cigarettes are exploding and burning with an alarming frequency, causing serious third-degree burn injuries, loss of body parts such as eyes, tongues, and teeth, and permanent disability and scarring. The e-cigarettes are exploding when the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are sold with the e-cigarettes fail, undergo thermal runaway and, essentially, explode like a pipe bomb.


A typical vape pen/e-cigarette is comprised of three primary parts, a mouth piece, a cylindrical “mod” in which the battery is placed, and a battery.

Figure 1 shows examples of e-cigarettes sold commonly throughout the United States. Figure 2 demonstrates the parts of a typical e-cigarette.

The arrows and points in Figure 2 show what is also called the mod.

Additional examples of the portion of the e-cigarette that houses the battery—called a mod—are demonstrated in Figure 3.

What is referred to as the mouthpiece in Figure 2 may be an RDA (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer) or an RBA (Rebuildable Atomizer). The RDA actually drips a solution, or juice, onto a coil, which heats and atomizes the liquid into a vapor. The RBA uses a tank to hold the liquid prior to being converted into vapor by the coil. An Example of an RDA/RBA is shown in Figure 4.

When activated, the battery in an e-cigarette discharges current to a coil which heats the e-liquid into a vapor.

The batteries that are being sold for use in e-cigarettes are almost always re-chargeable lithium-ion batteries. These are shaped like a typical AA alkaline battery. They do not incorporate safeguards to prevent overcharging or overheating. Without safeguards in the battery and e-cigarette, a battery that begins to overheat will ignite into a fire and/or explode. This is called thermal runaway. These batteries are placed into the cylindrical mod, which is a closed system. It is a virtual pipe bomb waiting to be detonated.

When the lithium-ion battery fails and overheats into a thermal runaway, pressure quickly builds inside the mod until, finally, the fire and heat pressure causes the mod to explode—often in close proximity to the body or face of the user. The U.S. Fire Administration in 2017 estimated that there have been 195 separate incidents of explosion and fire reported by the U.S. media between 2009 and December 31, 2016. However, in a recent study published in August 2018, it was found that there were 2,035 incidents of explosion and burn injuries presented to U.S. Emergency Departments between 2015 and 2017. This is much higher than the number of media reported incidents. This rapid year over year rise in injuries from exploding e-cigarettes is alarming. No agency in the United States has issued regulations governing e-cigarette batteries. Although the FDA’s authority in 2016 was extended to include all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and although the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) has authority to regulate e-cigarette batteries, there are still no regulations governing these batteries.

In April of 2018, in response to the growing danger of e-cigarette explosions and fires, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) approved ANSI/UL 8139—a national Standard for Electrical Systems of Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Devices. ANSI/UL 8139 offers specific requirements for improving electrical system protections and safeguards for e-cigarettes.

Some of the new requirements include:

  • Requiring that the batteries comply with UL 1642 – the standard for lithium batteries.
  • Requiring the chargers to comply with already accepted standards in use for information technology equipment, audio/video, communication equipment, and class 2 power units and extra-low voltage outputs.
  • Requiring that e-cigarettes incorporate a venting mechanism that channels the pressure wave in the direction where harm is minimized.
  • Requiring that the batteries and devices be protected against overcharge, over discharge, and short circuit conditions and be able to withstand single fault conditions without resulting in fire or rupture.

There are other important standards in ANSI/UL 8139 that, when followed, will reduce significantly the dangers of e-cigarette use.

The dangers of e-cigarette use continues, however. Vape shops are still selling unprotected lithium-ion batteries for use with e-cigarettes. Specifically, vape shops are selling batteries labeled as 18650, 3,000 mAh lithium-ion batteries. Figure 5 depicts commonly sold batteries for e-cigarettes.

These batteries currently do not have built-in protections against thermal runaway, fire or rupture. Similarly, many, many types of e-cigarettes do not have adequate protection against short circuit or thermal runaway in the electrical system utilized.

What can be done to increase the safety of e-cigarettes? There are some steps that, if taken nationwide, can reduce the risk of explosion and fire during e-cigarette use. First, utilize a standard AA or AAA alkaline battery. While not re-chargeable, these batteries pose less risk of thermal runaway. Second, importers and retailers who distribute and sell to the public e-cigarettes and their accessories, including batteries, should only distribute and sell ANSI/UL 8139 compliant products. Third, specific thorough and complete instructions and warnings should be prominent and provided with the e-cigarette. Fourth, the current practice of selling unprotected batteries with unprotected or inadequately protected e-cigarette electrical systems should end. Finally, the Center for Tobacco Products needs to establish regulation of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette batteries to require compliance with ANSI/UL 8139.

The rapid growth in the sale and use of all types of ENDS, including the e-cigarette configuration depicted above, shows no sign of abating. With more effective regulation and public awareness, the decision to vape will no longer unwittingly expose the user to a life-changing explosion and fire.


Steve Weston has 28 years of experience representing people who suffer from serious injuries. He has significant experience helping victims and families affected by automobile and truck accidents, gas explosions, defective products, unsafe premises and many other causes of injury.

Related Articles

A Texas-Sized Reputation

by Justin Smulison

Dan Sciano’s proven record of success and leadership has made him a highly sought-after plaintiff’s litigator in the Lone Star State.

Dan Sciano: Expert Civil Litigator

Maintaining a Legacy

by Best Lawyers

Ben Zimmerman and the SUGARMAN team carry on the tradition of excellence at the storied plaintiffs' law firm.

SUGARMAN Lawyers on Their Trial Strategy


Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident in Brentwood, TN?

by Harlene Labrum

Learn whether you should hire a lawyer after a car accident lawyer in Brentwood, TN. Contact Labrum Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.

Road caution sign in front of two wrecked cars


What Will a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer Actually Do for You?

by Adam Zayed

Personal injury lawyer Adam Zayed explains the important steps a Chicago car accident lawyer will take to ensure you receive the best legal representation.

Blurry image of fast moving traffic in big city


Precision in Practice

by John Fields

For four decades, the Perecman Firm's unwavering commitment to legal excellence has been crucial in securing victory for those facing life-altering injuries.

Three lawyers stand in NYC street posing for picture


A Winning Approach

by John Fields

Recognized New York-based lawyer and trial legend Benedict Morelli, with his firm sharing the keys to their courtroom success, has developed a winning approach.

Three lawyers wearing suits pose for a picture


Raising the Bar

by John Fields

New York City-based powerhouse Block O’Toole & Murphy continues to set new benchmarks for personal injury cases, with the firm achieving landmark victories.

Five lawyers sit and stand posing for a photo


Easton & Easton: Let Our Family Help Yours

by Justin Smulison

For more than 50 years, Easton & Easton have continued to be the go-to trial law firm for injury and wrongful death claims in Southern California in 2023.

Group of lawyers pose at table with globe in forefront

5 Things To Consider When Choosing a Car Accident Lawyer in Dallas, TX

by Jay Murray

Choosing the right car accident lawyer for your case in Dallas, Texas, is essential. Read this article to learn about 5 things to consider during the process.

Figure in suit checks off an animated list


Making A Meaningful Difference in Clients Lives

by Justin Smulison

Scarlett Law Group is hailed as one of California’s personal injury trailblazers, representing plaintiffs from all backgrounds. Here's the firm's recipe for success.

Three lawyers in suits pose in front of a bridge

Understanding Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

by Best Lawyers

In personal injury cases, the statute of limitations can vary depending on several factors. To navigate the process, consider hiring a legal professional.

Animated woman holding a clock and coin while balancing on plank

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer When Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

by Best Lawyers

When filing personal injury claims, which is typically a complex and distressing process, consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Unseen individual with hand brace points to a legal contract


What to Do if the Other Driver Doesn't Report the Accident

by Rick Lopez

Call 911 to report a car accident if the other driver refuses to report the car crash. Learn more about what to do after a car accident occurs in Texas here.

Unseen individual writing up report with cracked windshield in background


When the Result Means Everything

by Lyons & Simmons

Michael Lyons and Christopher Simmons, Texas-based trial attorneys and founders of the firm Lyons & Simmons, are dedicated to finding justice for their clients.

Two suited lawyers walk side by side while talking


This Man Can Protect You From Unsafe Trucks

by The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson

Texas-based listed lawyer Frank L. Branson has dedicated his legal career to helping consumers, representing the families and victims of serious truck accidents.

Suited man sits behind desk and writes on notepad

Your Fault or My Fault, It All Goes Through No-Fault

by Michael L. Taub

The No-Fault System, which helps victims receive payment for accident-related medical bills, does not always regard minor accidents on court dockets.

Man at steering wheel leaning forward grasping sore neck

Trending Articles

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees

by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power

by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

The U.S. Best Lawyers Voting Season Is Open

by Best Lawyers

The voting season for the 31st edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and the 5th edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America is officially underway, and we are offering some helpful advice to this year’s voters.

Golden figures of people standing on blue surface connected by white lines

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue

by Best Lawyers

The 2021 Global Issue features top legal talent from the most recent editions of Best Lawyers and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch worldwide.

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom

by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2024 Launch

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce The Best Lawyers in Australia™ for 2023, including the top lawyers and law firms from Australia.

Australian Parliament beside water at sunset

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023

by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

The Upcycle Conundrum

by Karen Kreider Gaunt

Laudable or litigious? What you need to know about potential copyright and trademark infringement when repurposing products.

Repurposed Products and Copyright Infringemen

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers

by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Inflation Escalation

by Ashley S. Wagner

Inflation and rising costs are at the forefront of everyone’s mind as we enter 2023. The current volatile market makes it more important than ever to understand the rent escalation clauses in current and future commercial lease agreements.

Suited figure in front of rising market and inflated balloon

A Celebration of Excellence: The Best Lawyers in Canada 2024 Awards

by Best Lawyers

As we embark on the 18th edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™, we are excited to highlight excellence and top legal talent across the country.

Abstract image of red and white Canada flag in triangles

8 Different Types of Criminal Defenses in Law

by Best Lawyers

Learn about the different types of criminal defenses available in law, including innocence, self-defense, insanity and more. Protect your rights today.

Silver handcuffs laying on finger printed papers

Announcing The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ 2024

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce the landmark 15th edition of The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ for 2024, including the exclusive "Law Firm of the Year" awards.

Sky view of South Africa town and waterways

Best Lawyers Voting Is Now Open

by Best Lawyers

Voting has begun in several countries across the globe, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. Below we offer dates, details and answers to voting-related questions to assist with the voting process.

Hands holding smartphone with five stars above phone