UPDATE: Was Exploding E-Cigarette a 'Mod'?

Details slow to emerge on incident, but speculation centers on possible modifications

Published in CSP Daily News

NICEVILLE, Fla. -- An electronic cigarette or electronic cigar that reportedly exploded in a Florida man's mouth was likely one he built himself or modified using parts he purchased online, according to reports.

Last week, the e-cigarette's battery exploded while being used by Tom Holloway, 57, of Niceville, Fla. He was treated for shattered teeth, burns and a chunk taken out of his tongue, according to various reports. Holloway has since been released from the hospital and is recovering from his injuries, reports said.

Given the lack of concrete information available about the nature of the device, CSP Daily News has not reported on the incident as news (See Related Content below to view an editorial concerning coverage of the incident). But the fledgling industry is now offering some theories as to what may have happened.

CSP Daily News reader "phorton" was the first to comment on the editorial: "CSP is exactly on target by withholding this story and the associated sensationalism until all of the facts are in. Based on the evidence I've been able to uncover, it doesn't appear this incident involves an off-the-shelf e-cigarette product but rather what's known in 'vaping' circles as a 'mod.' These are basically homemade devices that are constructed from parts available on the Internet. They are put together by the consumer and usually are modified to produce a 'heavy-duty' nicotine burst typically achieved by using lithium batteries larger than those found in off-the-shelf products. The 'stacking' of batteries is also a common practice and is discouraged even by the 'mod' parts manufacturers."

He added, "We shouldn't condemn an entire emerging industry even if it is determined the consumer played no role in the incident. When and only when the facts have been fully disclosed should judgments be rendered."

Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, told the Associated Press that the industry knows of no problems with the cigarettes or batteries exploding.

Kiklas said the cigarettes include a small battery and cartridge. The battery is designed to generate an electric charge when the device is inhaled. The charge sets off the vapor in the cigarette tube.

He cited a federal report that found 2.5 million Americans used electronic cigarettes last year. "There have been billions and billions of puffs on the cigarettes, and we have not heard of this happening before," he said.

"What happened is a tragedy, and we hope this is a wakeup call to the industry to institute higher standards," Dan Recio, co-founder of e-cigarette manufacturer V2 Cigs, said in a statement. "We took action against the possibility of electronic issues from the very beginning, with safeguards integrated into our batteries like automatic shutoff and smart chargers that prevent overcharging. We properly age all batteries before shipment and retest mAh to ensure the highest standards."

Chief Butch Parker of the North Bay Fire District responded to the call. "I have never heard of or seen anything like this before," Parker told ABC News. Although the battery was unrecognizable after the incident, Parker reported finding several 3.0 volt CR123A type batteries charging in the room along with a scorched battery case that appeared to be one for a cigar-sized device.

Although the investigation is still not concluded, the battery type and "cigar" appearance of the device indicate Holloway may have been using a custom made "mod" or modified e-cigarette using stacked batteries similar to a flashlight, said Recio. These devices are unlike more popular e-cigs, which have built in digital monitoring and protections, he said.

Modified e-cig devices have a history of explosions and fires dating back several years due to cheap, unprotected lithium ion batteries and the possibility of overcharging the devices, he added. This can result in an electrical fire inside the device which produces a buildup of hydrogen gas resulting in an explosion.

"Consumers need to be careful to choose quality products and follow manufacturer specifications. We have strict quality control standards in place to ensure consumer safety," said Recio.

"People are already aware of the risk that they're taking when they start messing around with electrical components of anything they purchase, whether it's a cell phone, e cigarette, or a microwave," said the operators of E Cigarettes Junction.com, am e-cigarette review website, in a separate statement. "E-cigarettes were engineered by professionals to be used by consumers, not to be dangerously modified by amateurs in a mix 'n' match fashion."

Many electronic items on the market today are modified by their end users who want the product to provide more battery life, faster speed or otherwise higher performance capabilities that it was not designed to endure, it said. E-cigarette companies who have SGS certifications on their products have all met or surpassed the necessary stress tests on their batteries to ensure that they are safe to use for their intended purpose.

Keywords: 
cigarettes, cigars