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Another E-Cigarette Explosion Renews Questions About Safety

When Matt Yamashita of Pearl City, Hawaii, went to use his e-cigarette before hitting the basketball court, he got a surprise he won’t soon forget. That’s because instead of creating the steam vapor he was expecting, his cigarette exploded in his mouth, taking with it four teeth and requiring 40 stitches in his mouth. Yamashita will also require surgery for dental implants to replace the missing teeth once his primary injuries have healed. But what caused this explosion - and could it have been prevented?

Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina, has a theory, but she says most e-cigarette smokers aren’t going to like it.


"The only way to guarantee your e-cigarette won’t explode during use is to not use one at all," she says.

That’s because, according to Simpson, there really is no surefire way to tell if an e-cigarette is stable, thanks to the varying conditions present at the time of reported explosions.

"If you recall, there was a man in Idaho who made headlines last year when his e-cigarette exploded. In his case, the explosion was attributed to the moisture in his bathroom due to a running shower. But in Mr. Yamashita’s case, it sounds like he wasn’t even inside, he was outside at the basketball court," Simpson says.

And that means that pinpointing what exactly went wrong with Yamashita’s e-cigarette could be even more difficult.

According to e-cigarette expert Jason Artman, Yamashita’s device likely exploded because it had no safety features. Artman has documented over 240 separate e-cigarette explosions and suggests consumers who use e-cigarettes invest in a more expensive model of e-cigarette with regulated mods as an extra level of insurance against detonation. But dentists like Simpson don’t believe these extra safety features are worth the risk - or all that helpful.

"We have seen this same kind of accident happen again and again with lithium ion batteries," Simpson says. "Remember the Samsung phones that overheated and caught fire, or those hoverboards that caught fire while charging? It’s a lithium ion battery every time, but each time the battery has exploded or caught fire, it’s been for a different reason."

Simpson says that between the risk of the e-cigarette itself exploding or combusting and the recent studies that have shown that the fluid inhaled while smoking e-cigarettes can cause everything from tooth decay to oral cancer, you’re not really reducing your risk of anything.

"Are e-cigarettes safer than paper cigarettes? Not really," says Simpson. "And neither one of them is worth risking your life or your teeth for."

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