Reports that e-cigarette users in the United States are being seriously injured due to the devices exploding in their faces are a wake-up call, Quit Victoria says.
In the most recent case, a 29-year-old Memphis man suffered a broken neck, facial fractures, shattered teeth and burns when an e-cigarette he was using exploded in his mouth, says Quit.
The US Federal Emergency Management Authority says it is aware of at least 25 cases of e-cigarettes exploding on users over the past five years in the US.
It warned in a report last year that e-cigarettes could act as “flaming rockets” when their batteries failed. E-cigarettes were recently banned from the cargo-holds of aeroplanes because of the risks of fire and explosion.
Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White says the cases highlight the risks presented by e-cigarettes currently being sold with no Australian safety standards.
“The lack of basic consumer safety standards for a device that is rechargeable, heats liquid to a high temperature, and is used to deliver vapour of unknown composition to the lungs poses several serious safety risks,’’ Dr White says.
“Besides the risk of an e-cigarette exploding in your mouth, there have also been cases in Victoria of toddlers being poisoned after ingesting liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes.
“Quit Victoria calls on the Victorian Minister for Health and the Consumer Affairs Minister to take urgent action to get these dangerous products off the shelves or, at the very least, to see basic safety standards applied as they are to any other electronic device.”
Dr White says the lack of labelling standards and restrictions in Victoria mean nicotine free e-cigarettes could be sold to anyone, despite it being unclear exactly what they contained.
“Independent testing in NSW has shown that 70% of supposedly nicotine-free products actually contained liquid nicotine, an illegal poison – so you can’t trust the claims on the label,” Dr White says.
“We just don’t know what else is in e-cigarettes, or how safe it is to inhale chemicals directly into the lungs.
“Clearly e-cigarettes pose a danger to everyone in the community, not just children, which is why banning sales to minors – as has occurred recently in NSW and Queensland – fails to provide adequate safeguards.”
Quit Victoria has called for legislation to remove e-cigarettes from retail sale; extending smokefree laws to cover their use; and ban advertising and promotion.
Dr White says she welcoms Health Minister Jill Hennessy’s commitment to consider legislation around e-cigarettes as part of a tobacco reform package.