New York Senator Chuck Schumer held a press conference in response to a torrent of media stories about exploding electronic cigarettes. Is an electronic cigarette recall on the horizon? The Senator suggested that e-cigarettes are like ticking time bombs. He cited an Associated Press story that quoted FDA statistics regarding e-cig fires and explosions. The FDA data indicates 92 e-cig explosions from September 2009 to September 2015 and 66 from 2015 to early 2016. Schemer feels the incidents may be underreported.
Are they underreported? Maybe. But if an e-cig does explode it is virtually guaranteed to get media coverage. In either case, Schumer, like most officials, does not understand these products or devices beyond the headlines and some vague stats. They tend to see all electronic cigarettes as equal. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.
The Senator has suggested a possible recall of electronic cigarettes in an effort to curtail these incidents. He said the the government has a responsibility to have the appropriate authorities, the FDA, investigate incidents and find out whey they are happening. Things would be very much simplified for the Senator and others if they were to do something radical… like actually talking to the vaping community.
Why An Electronic Cigarette Recall Will Not Work
An electronic cigarette recall does nothing to address any of the issues the lead to e-cig explosions and fires. Any of the companies that would be targeted for a recall are unlikely the ones that are manufacturing products that explode. The clone and counterfeit market will remain strong and in fact may be strengthened by a recall as the inferior products are likely to fill any market vacuum created by an e-cig recall.
The manufacturers and distribution channels and the methods by which the cloned products access the market are unlikely to be impacted by a recall. These exchanges happen over private email or websites where sellers can buy identical looking products from manufacturers overseas. It is the suspicion of many industry experts that incidents involving unsafe vapor products are most often connected to cloned, counterfeit vape mods.
Other industry sources are re-enforcing the message that vaping consumers need to use products as directed and charge batteries using the proper battery chargers. This is also very, very important for product safety. Many vapers like to modify their devices and those modifications might make them unsafe. Vape mods are capable of generating a lot of heat and drawing a lot of power from batteries.
Speaking of batteries, we can’t over emphasize the importance of battery safety. The most common type of vape battery is the 18650, a very powerful battery. Carrying these batteries loosely in pockets and purses where they can interact with other metals such as keys or coins can be a recipe for disaster. Metal coming in contact with the positive and negative ends of a battery can draw so much power a thermal runaway can occur.
Storing loose batteries in separate containers is a wise decision. Battery cases cost less than $1 and will prevent vape batteries from coming into direct contact with other metals.
Vapers need to take basic precautions, use products as designed and directed and not modify their mods. We all have a goal of making vaping as safe as possible. The safety issues are about consumer education. The FDA has essentially denied vape shop owners the ability to demonstrate how to use a mod because if a shop does so, they are considered to be a manufacturer. The FDA needs o re-evaluate this counter-productive las as soon as possible. The problem caused by cloned and counterfeit devices also needs to be addressed somehow.
The bottom line here is that there is a wealth of information that the FDA and law makers could access by simply communicating with vapers and the vaping community. The relationship does not have to be, nor should it be, adversarial. We all want to make vaping as safe as possible.