E-cigarettes were designed for smokers who wanted to kick their habit. However, while the benefits haven't been thoroughly explored, one thing's for sure: they are not supposed to be sending people to the hospital.
So why is a new report suggesting that the rate of admission to the burn wards from the use of Electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) have actually been on the rise?
In the report, published in the Oct. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of doctors led by Dr. Elisha G. Brownson detailed some startling numbers concerning the amount of patients admitted to the University of Washington Regional Burn Center in Seattle, Washington, due to e-cigarette injuries.
In less than a year, researchers note that 15 patients were already treated between October 2015 and June 2016 at the University of Washington Medical Center from exploding e-cigarettes. In comparison, from 2009 to 2014, there were a total of 25 reports of injuries in the United States from these devices.
Among the 15 reported cases, 80 percent suffered flame burns, requiring them to receive extensive wound care and undergo a procedure called skin grafting — in which a piece of the patient's healthy skin from another part of the body is transplanted to the burned area. In addition, 33 percent received chemical burns requiring them to also recieve wound care. Lastly, 27 percent of the victims suffered a blast injury, causing tooth loss and "extensive" soft-tissue loss — with some of them needing surgery to remove damaged tissue and close up their wounds.
The different types of injuries they suffered were just as varied as what parts of the body were affected: 53 percent of the injuries were on the groin or thigh, 33 percent hand injuries and 20 percent facial injuries.
These statistics, though somewhat limited, are eye-opening, but why is this going on? It's a two-pronged problem: the batteries inside the device and a lack of regulation.
The batteries inside e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine-delivery systems are lithium-ion (the same type of batteries inside the Galaxy Note 7). These batteries are generally safe, but some can overheat and ultimately explode.
This leads regulation issue: though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized e-cigarettes and other vaping devices as tobacco products that fall under its jurisdiction, the agency has given no indication that it plans to regulate the batteries in the devices.
So what can users do to protect themselves? Brownson says they "should not alter the device and should keep batteries safely stored when not in use. However, even with these precautions, we have seen explosions occur."
Based on their estimates, other doctors will too.
"We suspect that with the growing use of ENDS, many hospitals around the country will see an increase in injuries related to e-cigarette explosions," the authors write.