Ryan Scholand of Ogden has a hole in the back of his throat, deep cuts on his hands and burns on his upper lip thanks to an unlikely culprit: an exploding electronic cigarette. (May 4, 2016)
Video by Max Schulte.
Ryan Scholand of Ogden has a hole in the back of his throat, deep cuts on his hands and scars already forming on his upper lip thanks to an unlikely culprit: An exploding electronic cigarette.
The 17-year-old was hospitalized Tuesday night when the e-cigarette he was puffing on exploded, burning his face, throat and hand, and cutting them with shards of metal.
Scholand said he had just replaced the battery in the e-cig (a battery-powered devices that simulates tobacco smoking by producing a heated vapor which resembles smoke), and when he pressed the ignition button to fire it up and release the Ghost Berry-flavored vapor, it exploded in his hand “like a bomb went off.”
“The second I pressed the fire button, it exploded,” said Scholand, a Spencerport High School senior and an employee at a local Delta Sonic. He said the battery base shot out like a projectile onto the floor while the aluminum upper part of the frame shot into his throat.
“I immediately felt a really hot sense of smoke going down my throat. I immediately thought something was wrong with my throat, like something was in it,” he said. “I saw the burst and explosion take place and I just threw the e-cig on the ground as it was still on fire.”
He surveyed the damage in the mirror: Cuts and blood “spewing” from his mouth. He then realized the device was still in flames on his basement floor so he threw a cloth to extinguish it. Then he ran upstairs to tell his mom.
“We heard a loud bang, and all of a sudden he comes flying in to the room and there is blood everywhere, I thought he’d been in a car accident,” said Shannon Magna. “He was just spitting up blood and spitting up blood.”
Ogden Police Chief Christopher Mears took possession of Scholand’s mangled e-cig, a device about 10 inches long when assembled and intact, and made of brass and aluminum. His officers went to Scholand’s house along with fire personnel shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday and helped get him to the hospital.
Mears acknowledged he had little knowledge of the devices as he has never had a problem with them before.
Scholand, who said he had done extensive research on the device before he bought it for $350 online less than a month ago, acknowledged he was not completely sure why it exploded, but believes it was a short circuit caused by a faulty battery and because the model he bought came without a chip to regulate energy current and heat.
“I took in the risk/reward aspect and I thought this would be safe, but I guess not,” Scholand said.
It’s not the first e-cig explosion and fire in the area, and fire officials say they worry it is a growing concern.
Gates Deputy Fire Chief Alan Bubel said there was in incident in Gates a couple years ago in which an individual burned his hand and a piece of the carpet in his home when the e-cig caught fire.
“I don’t want to see these becoming a common thing,” Bubel said. “But it is happening.”
A 2014 report from the U.S. Fire Administration called Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions warned of the increasing dangers of exploding e-cigs.
At the time, the report estimated more than 2.5 million Americans were using e-cigs “and this number is growing rapidly.”
The report acknowledged that fires and explosions caused by e-cigarettes are rare, and said 25 separate incidents of explosions and fire involving an e-cigarette were reported in the United States media between 2009 and August 2014.
The explosions and fire resulted in nine injuries and no deaths.
- Two of the injuries were serious burns.
- Most of the incidents occurred while the battery was charging.
“The shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails,” the report reads.
The report blamed some of the fires on users charging the small, powerful lithium-ion batteries out of accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and using power sources not approved by the manufacturer. Sholand said that was not the case with his e-cig.
A second report by the American Lung Association said “youth are using e-cigarettes at increasing and alarming rates. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use among both high school and middle school students tripled in one year, increasing from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014 among high school students, and from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 among middle school students. Youth use of e-cigarettes has now surpassed youth cigarette smoking.”
With all his physical injuries, Scholand said the worst one might be mental.
He acknowledged the event “shook him up” and he said it will be a while before he returns to using an e-cig — a device he turned to, in part, to help wean him off chewing tobacco.
“I’ve broken bones before, playing hockey, but this is honestly one of the more traumatic experiences because it just happened out of nowhere. It was literally like a bomb going off in my hand,” he said. “I think it scared me enough to step back for a while, if not totally abandon it.”
That is just fine with his mother, who doesn’t condone the use of the e-cig but accepts it as a safer alternative to using tobacco products.
“I don’t think it’s OK; I don’t want him doing any of this stuff,” she said. But until Tuesday night she was more concerned about things like cancer and other smoking-related dangers.
“This isn’t something that would have been on the radar. It’s a scary thing that we don’t definitely want to live through again.”
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