Incidents of battery operated e-cigarettes exploding and burning consumers have prompted U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to call for an investigation into possible causes and a recall to hold manufacturers responsible.
“These e-cigarettes are a ticking time bomb,’’ Schumer said, citing four injuries in New York last month at a Sunday new conference in Manhattan.
Schumer’s call for an investigation comes several days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will regulate the vaporizing devices. Under the new FDA rule, it is unlawful to sell e-cigarettes to minors under 18.
The pen-like devices sport colorful designs and emit candy-flavored vapors once ignited by lithium batteries that infuse nicotine when inhaled. The U.S. Fire Administration, a government agency under FEMA, labeled the batteries as “flaming rockets’’ and estimates that more than 2.5 million Americans are smoking electronic cigarettes since 2014.
In April, Schumer said, a Malverne man suffered burns to his hand and thigh when the cigarette exploded in his pants pocket.
In Brooklyn, a 14-year-old boy was blinded in one eye when the cigarette burst into flames onto his face while he was about to test the device at a smoke shop in Kings Plaza Center. In Queens, a woman’s e-cigarette exploded in her pocket while driving and in upstate New York another teenager suffered burn injuries to his face, hands and throat, said Schumer.
“We cannot look the other way now that it is regulated and more Americans will use them,’’ said Schumer. “We ask the FDA to do its job and investigate why these cigarettes are exploding and force the e-cigarette manufacturers to prevent this from happening.’’
FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said “The FDA remains concerned about adverse events associated with the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems, including overheating and exploding batteries as reported in the news.’’
Felberbaum said the federal agency is gathering information about voltage and chemicals used in the batteries of the cigarettes to evaluate overheating. He said consumers who suffer injuries from an exploding e-cig can report the incident on the FDA Safety Reporting portal.
He declined to comment on the possibility of recalls or whether a formal investigation of the causes of the explosion will be launched.
Under the new FDA oversight, all businesses that produce e-liquids and other e-cigarette products will have to register with the federal agency within 90 days. Storeowners will have to report how the products are manufactured and disclose all ingredients such as liquid nicotine and flavorings they use.