back to article Off with e's head: E-cig explosion causes first vaping death

A forensics report has reported the first known death from the use of electronic cigarettes after a Florida man was killed when his device exploded and drove itself into his cranium. Tallmadge D’Elia was vaping at home on May 5 when the vaping device, manufactured by Philippines-based Smok-E Mountain, exploded. An …

Anonymous Coward

Here we go again

Mechanical mod, misused.

It's not an "e-cig" problem, just a Darwin Award case.

If someone was to tinker with his car's steering and got it wrong, would anyone accuse cars, or the idiot who made a mess of it?

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Re: Here we go again

Well,, logic is one thing, lawyers are something else. There were a ton of lawsuits here in the States over people falling off ladders then suing the ladder company. The "victims" usually won even though it was their own fault or stupidity. So.... cue the lawyers up....

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Re: Here we go again

Mechanical mod, misused.

Mech mod. Period.

They're dangerous, one of the fundamental issues with vaping regulation missing the key points. We know what's dangerous, risky and what isn't and none of the regulations are addressing any of this.

Mech mods are dangerous, even for experienced users. People saying they're not are exactly the kind of people who are going to blow their own faces off; if you're saying it's not dangerous because I'm smart you're not half as smart as you think.

There's no reason for this to be a thing. Use the right battery chemistry and a *regulated* mod. AFAIK there's been no serious incidents where users have used regulated mods whereas all the incidents I've ever seen are directly related to mech mods. There's simply no reason for them to exist and certainly no reason for them to be sold, or legal. They're not cool, they're overpriced - and you're going to hurt yourself.

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Re: Here we go again

Some of these devices have stupidly large batteries.

My suggestion is set a maximum capacity limit on the batteries, so that they have less energy to dump if they go wrong. Could still injure, as any rechargeable battery could, but less likely to kill.

But I realize that even alkaline AA cells are an explosion risk, and can get really hot when shorted, and bigclivedotcom should have used his "explosion containment pie dish" when just dismantling one of a certain discount supermarket's AA rechargeable battery, but instead ended up burning his bench!

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Re: Here we go again

That won't work. The fundamental problem with lithium batteries exploding is people abusing them well beyond their design limits and good sense. The battery documentation says never draw over 10 amps from a lithium battery.

Last time this subject came up, it was an explosion on a 200w device. That made me think "uh...?" since 200w from a battery is a bit high. So, lets' consider how high that is, shall we? A 18650 lithium battery runs at 3.7 volts. 2x 3.7V = 7.4V. So 200w / 7.4v = 27.02Amps

Now, personally I get nervous when pulling 27 amps through a 30 amp ring main in case somebody plugs in a fan heater or something and trips the breaker. Would you ever consider pulling 27 amps from lithium batteries at all, let alone unprotected cells? If you abuse a lithium cell to much, it blows burning hydrogen out of those little holes at the top of the battery, and the device design is supposed to vent this safely. How many designs actually do?

The problem is that people are dangerously ignorant of the reasons why electrical safety regulations exist, and both build and buy products that do not comply with any safety regulations to shave a few extra pennies off of the cost. I've personally taken apart a cheap CE marked "protected" 18650 battery I bought from eBay to check it was ok before using it in a project, only to discover that it was actually a used laptop battery cell with a bit of cardboard where the protection circuitry was supposed to be.

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Re: Here we go again

I recall one of the earliest instances of ecig user injury, well reported anyway. The guy had stripped his "pen" (note, not mod but store bought rubbish pen) and another one and attempted to mate them together to make it "better".

What on earth could have gone wrong???!

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Re: Here we go again

Mech mods are dangerous, even for experienced users.

I've been vaping for a couple of years (Innokin and Alien mod) but never heard of Mech Mods.

Looking at them, they sound like a perfect way to destroy your batteries, coils, lungs and (according to this news) brain. Who the hell though they were a good idea? I'm surprised they're legal even.

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Re: Here we go again

I've personally taken apart a cheap CE marked "protected" 18650 battery I bought from eBay to check it was ok before using it in a project, only to discover that it was actually a used laptop battery cell with a bit of cardboard where the protection circuitry was supposed to be.

Sadly, this seems to be the norm for stuff off Ebay, AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, and the like.

No manufacturer details, faked compliance/testing marks and dodgy construction and engineering.

If it's marked "China", don't trust any markings you see on it. I hate to generalize, but an awful lot of the cheap electronics coming out of China are not safe, reliable, or fit for purpose.

Spend a bit more, get something made by a company that will stand behind it.

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Re: Here we go again

Sadly, this seems to be the norm for stuff off Ebay, AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, and the like.

Yep. I wouldn't mind so much if it was sold as an unprotected cell, but CE marking it and claiming it's protected with a bit of cardboard instead of protection circuitry?! That is obviously dangerous and immoral as hell.

Agreed with buying batteries and electronics from reputable companies, it's one thing I simply won't buy cheaply.

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Re: Here we go again

Where do you get something "made by a company that will stand behind it"? Likely the product of $US_company or $UK_company you refer to was also made in China. Unless you buy their products directly from them, who's to say that they aren't Chinese ripoffs that have the company's logo on them?

If you wanted a replacement battery for your iPhone or Samsung, would you buy an "official Apple" or "official Samsung" battery off eBay or Amazon? Potentially same problem there, despite the reassuring logo. You gotta buy directly from them to know what you are getting (and yeah, it isn't like Apple and especially Samsung batteries haven't had their issues, so even companies that try to do it right can't be perfect)

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Re: Here we go again

I was actually thinking about making one myself, but there were a few design points that might move it out from under that definition: fuses (both a quick-blow for shorts, and a lower rated slow-blow for stuck-on conditions), a VRM/MOSFET tuned by a pot (optional, possibly as a selectable module, and the thing that makes the definition questionable), and a self-resetting thermal breaker. I'm totally willing to forego the fun little project if it meant other people knocking off the silliness entirely. I also suspect that at least mandating basic thermal/short protection would go a long way in preventing this sort of thing.

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Re: Here we go again

"Sadly, this seems to be the norm for stuff off Ebay, AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, and the like."

100% correct.

I build robots and other battery-powered doohickeys as a hobby, and real-world experience has taught me to never buy lithium ion batteries from those places. Now I buy them directly from the manufacturer when possible, or from a reseller the manufacturer recommends if necessary.

Yes, they're more expensive that way -- but the batteries I get have several rare qualities. They're much less likely to catastrophically fail, and they're much more likely to actually be what they claim in terms of capacity and the existence of protection circuitry.

I'm also not convinced that they're actually more expensive, once you factor in that they require replacement much less often.

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Re: Here we go again

If someone is drawing 200W then they are most likely subohming, which means the coil could be as low as 0.1 ohms to 0.9ohms, trouble is some batteries arent capable off working below 1ohm.

These mechanical mods (changable batteries) dont have the same protections as inbuilt batteries and theres more chance of a fake, woth both the 18650 and the mod circuitry itself being faked.

This article is the first time Ive heard of a UL safety sticker, been vaping for 4 years now.

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Anonymous Coward

Got more than bargained for

"I needed that vape like a hole in my head."

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Souk an e-cig

On the various chinese e-souks, there are loads of products for 'turbo charging' or otherwise customising one's vaping experience, including super vapourising coils and bigger Li-po batteries to extend sucking time.

No surprise really that some go wrong.

I can't say the idea of inhaling anti freeze appeals to me, I gave up cancer sticks in the '80s and now can't figure out why I ever wanted to inhale anything but decent air ( and that's hard enough to find).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

inhaling anti freeze

Yup, the very same "anti-freeze" you find in toothpaste and thousands of other every-day products, including bread. You really know what you're talking about, don't you?

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Re: Souk an e-cig

If you inhale totthpaste or bread, you deserve all you get

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

Aaaand, once again, someone speaks without knowing the subject.

That "anti freeze" (PG) has been vaporized in hospitals, mind you, for its antiviral properties. Sure, this didn't stick, not because it was dangerous but because it was less efficient than believed.

As to the "anti freeze" part, it's indeed the only fluid with such properties that is allowed in freezers that contain food, because... drum roll... in case of a leak it's not dangerous for human health.

Please, educate yourself, you'll avoid a lot of embarrassment.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"I can't say the idea of inhaling anti freeze appeals to me"

There's no anti-freeze in there. You're talking about propylene glycol, which is in all sorts of things you eat, drink, and inhale, and has a long enough track record that it can be considered generally safe.

It is also put in antifreeze -- but the reason it's there is to make antifreeze safer. It replaced a highly toxic ingredient that used to be used.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

Yup, PG is quite literally the 'non-toxic' part of non-toxic antifreeze.

But because people remember stories of dogs dying after licking up (ethyl glycol, not prop glycol based) antifreeze, they seem to think they're being clever when they drag that one out.

It's one of my Very Favourite ways of dismissing someone from an argument on the matter, as this is something that is very easy to fact check, but it sounds - from an uneducated standpoint - so good, doesn't it?

Shame that it's so far off base that it borders on 'not even wrong' territory then, eh?

Steven R

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

Indeed, how long before we discover that vaping is as bad (or worse) as cigarettes...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

how long before we discover that vaping is as bad (or worse) as cigarettes...

Please, have a seat and make yourself comfortable: it might take a while for basic toxicology rules to magically change.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

”...it might take a while for basic toxicology rules to magically change.”

You’re overlooking the powers of tabloid journalists to magically alter almost any aspect of science or nature at will.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

You can say "it's just water" or whatever this months tag line is that makes you feel happy about what you like to suck on but for me the only thing I need to have seen was the state of my dad's windscreen when I helped him out cleaning his car.. there was a sticky film of something clear that smelles suspiciously like his cape liquid which took acetone to remove properly covering the whole screen...

I wouldn't want that shit in my lungs any more than normal cigarette smoke.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

Indeed, how long before we discover that vaping is as bad (or worse) as cigarettes...

The finest minds in public health have been trying to find notable harm to users - other than mild irritation, niccy rush, etc - for a decade and haven't found squat, mate. The user base is in the tens of millions and has been for years, and they haven't complained of any problems, either - and they're the ones most likely to be pissed if they get something nasty.

That, and as noted, basic toxicology, and not only that, just plain physics, denote that it's chemically and physically impossible for e-cigs to be as harmful as regular cigs in normal use. It's just not a thing that can happen, because damned near all the harm from smoking comes from the smoke. Something e-cigs don't create because there's no combustion.

This is very basic stuff. The Royal College of Physicians reckon that even with everything at worst case scenario outlooks, e-cigs could never be more than 5% the harm of lit tobacco (And that takes into account house fires second hand inhalation, etc, too), and it's likely to be far less.

Actual epidemiologists with extended experience of tobacco harm would argue that you shouldn't even compare the two, as it gives a false equivelance - it's like comparing an AK47 round being fired at someone, an AR15 round being fired at someone, and Munition X (a small stone being thrown by a toddler at someone, which they won't mention) - the comparison gives the impression to the layman that Munition X could be deadly, I mean otherwise, why'd they include it in the test....?

Anyway, enough prattling, I've got servers to kick violently up the 'arris.

Steven "Yeah, been there, done that" R

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Souk an e-cig

That young man, is what used to be referred to as "tar", your daddy is being very naughty and having a sneaky ciggy on his way to and from work!

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Coat

Anti-Freeze

Have they considered replacing the anti-freeze with Austrian Wine?

[I'm putting my coat on and taking my curly tresses back to the 1980s]

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"That young man, is what used to be referred to as "tar", your daddy is being very naughty and having a sneaky ciggy on his way to and from work!"

No, Tar isn't clear and doesn't smell like peanut butter.

Unless you honestly think that the flavourings are made of magic pixie water you have to know that there is more going into your lungs than just water.

Im happy to accept that vapping is safer than smoking, but in the grand scheme of things isnt it just as stupid?

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"I can't say the idea of inhaling anti freeze appeals to me"

You are confusing Propylene Glycol with Ethylene Glycol. They are two completely different substances.

The clue is in the different arrangements of letters in the words.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"Indeed, how long before we discover that vaping is as bad (or worse) as cigarettes..."

If Big Tobacco could throw a million pounds at a proper qualified medical study which found a serious problem with vaping they would do it in an instant, it would just come out of petty cash.

But they haven't.

Instead people rely on a series of (very) bad science and tabloid journalism.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

Propylene Glycol is the harmless food additive. Ethylene Glycol is poisonous "antifreeze". Word.

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Rob

Re: Souk an e-cig

Why would Big Tobacco do that, they are into the vape industry just under different names and subsidiaries. They harvest plants for nicotine, this is just another market to sell nicotine into.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"...how long before we discover that vaping is as bad (or worse) as cigarettes..."

We will "discover" this shortly after we discover that the earth is, in fact, actually flat.

In the 10 or so years that vaping has been "a thing," considering the multiple millions of people who have switched from tobacco to vapor, there have been, at least, (and this is my own estimation using only common sense) several hundred thousand people, per year, in the US alone, who have NOT died from tobacco related illness.

We all know that PG and VG vapor, even including nicotine, is NOT a carcinogen. We know this from many, many credible sources, including the US CDC. We know that vaping is a THOUSAND times less toxic than smoking tobacco. We also know, again from many credible sources, that tobacco smoke contains, literally, dozens of toxic substances.

The anti-vapors, to me, are in the same category as the anti-vaxxers. Ignorant, ill-informed, self-righteous morons--except that the anti-vapors have a huge, powerful, greedy, hateful, self-interested group behind them: The Tobacco Industry. Every time an infant swallows a vapor pen, or a battery explodes, they will see to it that it makes national and world-wide headline news.

Don't be fooled by this. The health-care cost for treating all the health-related issues surrounding tobacco comes RIGHT OUT OF ---YOUR--- POCKET.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

Every ingredient in vape juice has a rather extensive (as in 100 years or more) history of inhalation and has been studied pretty extensively, with one exception: the flavorings. Food flavorings are used, which are tested for safety when ingesting, but not when inhaling.

If there's going to be an unexpected problem, it will be with the flavorings (and this has already occurred with certain flavorings, specifically the buttery ones). So, if you are concerned about the unknown and still want to vape, the general recommendation is to use unflavored juice.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

Anyone who says "it's just water" doesn't know what they're talking about. The visible fog is a mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine (it's mostly the glycerine that causes the film). PG is the same stuff used in theatrical fog machines.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

I quite enjoy shitting down the gullet of the "it's just water!" crowd. Unless they're legitimately into e.g. ultrasonic water misters. I'm well aware of the hazards and effects, both first party and otherwise (as far as they can be known). The amount of nicotine being exhaled is still noteworthy, and the water content negligible, so folks need to exercise discretion when vaping indoors and especially around others. Inconsiderate loljustwaterbrovapers need to take it down a peg. There are ~4 vapers in my office of ~20 folks, and not one of them billows clouds of stinky funk.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

I'll contest the notion (that they would attempt to attack it, provided the current regulatory environment on burning tobaccos, also not trying to suggest that this was specifically your own sentiment) by noting that they're actually making decent inroads in the vaping department themselves. There's money to be made, especially with increasing constraints on the burning-tobacco market. Most gas stations in my general area have at least one brand, and most of those have several to choose from, both one-time-use and with replaceable, pre-filled cartridges. I do not mind such competition, provided they don't make any overly hostile moves towards the more DIY markets, but I don't hold much hope for that overall. R.J. Reynolds even pulled a full recall on their own Vuse Vibe pens in the past couple of months, after some reports of overheating batteries came to light... not even any injuries or property destruction. It seems to me that they wish to at least appear to be on the side of good.

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Re: Souk an e-cig

"The amount of nicotine being exhaled is still noteworthy"

Yes, but the amount of nicotine that can be absorbed is much, much lower. Unlike cigarettes (which include chemicals to dramatically increase nicotine absorption), vaping is an incredibly inefficient way to get nicotine into your system. There aren't a ton of studies on the "second hand" effects yet, but all of the ones so far indicate that the second hand absorption, even in fog-heavy environments, is negligible as a result.

Those "heavy cloud" vapers are doing that intentionally for show. Lots of vapers choose their gear, juice, and technique to keep the clouds to a minimum. Fortunately, as vaping moves more into the mainstream, we are getting fewer of the rude "as much fog as possible" sorts.

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limit vaping to 20 watts

we don't need 250 watts, i've been vaping since '09. all i need is 12 watts. there's no reason to go higher than that, other than being a vapehole.

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Because your way of vaping is The One True Way, yes?

I vape at 15 watts on a DNA40 box mod and a modified Kayfun 3.1ES. I agree that 20 watts is all we need - we being you and I. Why should everyone have to conform to our narrow definition, though? It's this kind of one-size-fits-all oversimplification and micromanagement that ruins everything.

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Indeed, I know some people who hated the comparative harshness of 50/50 PG/VG liquids, but when given a cloud chucking tank that takes the heavier stuff and needs more power, pretty much binned their smokes overnight.

The choice available is why these devices work, and to ignore that is to miss the fundamental point of these devices.

Steven "has run the gamut from 2w to 250w and settled on 13.5, thanks" R

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

limit vaping to 20 watts

There's no issue with wattage. The problem is directly related to unregulated mods. You have an unreg mech mod and you short it it's going to be whatever the battery chucks out in a short. THAT is the problem. If you're going to regulate such a thing FWIW, keep it sensible, it has to be at least 150W. Minimum.Again the problem here isn't a regulated mod; it's unregulated ones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

”...I know some people who hated the comparative harshness of 50/50 PG/VG liquids, but when given a cloud chucking tank that takes the heavier stuff and needs more power, pretty much binned their smokes overnight.”

That would be me. Trying to kick a 60 a day roll up habit with the thin vapour on offer even three years just didn’t do it for me. 120 odd watts, a couple of Uwell Crown tanks and some decent liquid got me off the fags for good last summer, and now I’m back down at 20 watts with a couple of Kayfun 5s. You can’t emphasise enough that if you don’t find vaping sufficiently satisfying, you just won’t take to it.

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Trying to kick a 60 a day roll up habit with the thin vapour on offer even three years just didn’t do it for me. 120 odd watts, a couple of Uwell Crown tanks and some decent liquid got me off the fags for good last summer, and now I’m back down at 20 watts with a couple of Kayfun 5s. You can’t emphasise enough that if you don’t find vaping sufficiently satisfying, you just won’t take to it.

Firstly - how the hell did you have time to roll and smoke 60 a day?

dosent the satifying just come from the amount of nicotine in it or vp or whatever?

I am migrating at the moment, trying to find the right formula

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

60 a day... wow.

Assuming an 8hr sleep at night, that's one every 15 minutes all-day, every day.

Good on you for doing what you can to give that up.

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Mushroom

Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

There's no issue with wattage

There is, when you want to make a hand-portable, pocketable device that can generate (and dissipate) 200W.

A cordless soldering iron would rarely exceed a few tens of watts, for example.

We have a cordless lawnmower. The battery pack has about 10 18650's in it, and gives you about 15 minutes of mowing. Assuming the cells are the usual 2Ah, that's 8A draw. To keep the cells stable, it's arranged that there is an air duct that sucks air through the battery pack while the motor is running, to keep the cells cool. Similarly, on charging, a fan in the charger does the same thing.

A 200W vape device, with 2 18650's in it will draw 27A per cell. Anyone who knows anything about Li cells would wince at the thought! Never mind that the cell is not being monitored or cooled.

Besides, what the hell does it do with 200W?

Picture of cell supplying 27A ------->

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Firstly - how the hell did you have time to roll and smoke 60 a day?

Who says he was rolling them himself? You gotta have *something* for the kids to do...

"Roll faster, you little bastards, or it'll be the strap!"

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

If you're going to regulate such a thing FWIW, keep it sensible, it has to be at least 150W. Minimum

No, if your doing to regulate such a thing then you follow the existing electrical safety rules on what's safe, not what people decide they'd like to keep.

A 18650 lithium battery is specced to provide an absolute "never exceed maximum" of 10 amps.

Assuming that your using 2 18650 batteries running at 3.7 volts in series that gives you 7.4 volts. 7.4 volts / 150 watts = 20.27 amps. That's 10.27 amps above the maximum that the battery should have drawn from it, and 4.7 amps away from the point that batteries explode at during testing.

The solution is for people to follow the existing electrical safety rules on the design and production of this sort of equipment, which for a two cell design in series at this voltage is about 80 watts according to the battery manufacturer. Want higher wattages? Double the voltage uses half the ampage with the same wattage perfectly safely, so either use more batteries or a transformer.

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Different 18650s are rated to different constant current outputs - 10A is on the low end. Plenty are fine at 25A and above, although very few can manage a constant 30A (Sonys VCT range contain some).

However, that's constant draw - such as a cordless power drill, or angle grinder, being given a hot supper for a minute at a time, with five or six of those cells set up to provide 40 or 50A at around 8-12v, depending on the exact configuration.

In a vaping device, you rarely use them for more than a few seconds at a time - at higher wattages, even less.

This means you are into the pulsing range, and most cells can handle double their constant current when being pulsed, without any risk.

So a cell rated for 20A constant can typically handle a 40A pulse without risk. And in a mech mod with a fully charged cell, you're talking ~4v at 40A - ~150w depending on resistance of the coil. You can't do anything but pulse at that power level because your lungs can't maintain the airflow to stop the device from drying out/getting too hot/etc - so you take short, very fast, inhales.

If you have any doubt on this, bear in mind that if you were correct and all cells went pop as soon as they went past their rated max constant current draw, there would be hundreds of thousands of battery fires a year from e-cigs. We've seen hundreds in near a decade worldwide.

Real world evidence trumps internet hypothesis every time, I'm afraid.

Steven R

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Re: limit vaping to 20 watts

Two words for you, Missing Semicolon: Duty cycle. This is not continuous draw. Most regulated mods have a "timeout" function to stop exactly this failure mode.

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