Smokers are being warned about the dangers of electronic cigarettes after a number of people were injured by exploding devices.
Surgeons are warning smokers of the dangers of buying cheap or imported vaping kits after five people were treated for burns when their e-cigarette batteries exploded.
Consultant plastic surgeon Dai Nguyen, from Morriston Hospital’s Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery, said: ‘Before this year we hadn’t seen any injuries like this. Now we have had five which reflects the rising popularity of these e-cigarettes.’
Three of the patients had the cigarettes in their trouser pockets when they exploded.
Dr Nguyen added: ‘It’s not just us, this is something that is starting to be highlighted nationwide. I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
‘I suspect a lot of A&E departments may also be dealing with these incidents and we’re just not aware of them.’
One of the patients was a 25-year-old who was paintballing at the time while another was a factory worker who suffered thigh and groin injuries as well as burns to his hand when he tried to extinguish the flames.
Luckily, they have managed to recover but surgeons warn that not everyone has been lucky.
Dr Nguyen said: ‘I am aware of other cases which have required surgery and skin grafts.
‘There have also been reports of e-cigarettes exploding in people’s mouths which resulted in catastrophic injuries similar to those you would experience if you were shot in the face by a gun.’
The situation has got so serious the surgeons have notified the trading standards officers, who are calling for tougher import regulations on e-cigarettes coming into the UK.
David Picken, trading standards officer at Swansea Council, urged customers not to be tempted to buy cheap imports and always take care when buying.
He said: ‘These chargers have not been constructed to the correct safety standards and are often counterfeit.
‘Take additional care when buying online. Consider carefully if the cheapest is the best, particularly when the goods are coming directly to you from a business outside of the UK and EU.’
Always check the e-cigarette is labelled correctly and check if it’s got a visible CE mark on it, he added.
In the past year Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been called out to six house fires caused by e-cigarettes, and they fear there have been dozens of smaller blazes that firefighters were not called to.
Deputy head of community safety Steven Davies said: ‘We would urge the public to always charge them on a non-flammable surface away from other flammable materials, not to charge them over long periods or leave them unattended when charging.’