Vaping Image Credit: CreditCreditSteve Helber/Associated Press

E-Cigarette exploded in a teenager’s mouth, damaging his jaw

Kailani Burton bought a vaping kit for her teenage son Austin, hoping he would use it to quit smoking.

In March of last year, she and her husband were sitting in the living room when they heard a loud pop.

Austin raced in, holding his bloodied jaw. An e-cigarette had exploded in his mouth.

“He was bleeding really bad,” Ms. Burton said in an interview. “It looked like a hole in his chin.”

Ms. Burton and her family rushed Austin, then 17 and still in high school, to the hospital in Ely, Nev., a remote mountain town. But realizing quickly that he needed treatment at a trauma centre, they then drove the 200-mile, mountainous trek from eastern Nevada to Salt Lake City, arriving about 1.30 a.m.

“I was so worried driving. I almost hit a wild horse,” Ms. Burton said.

Dr. Katie W. Russell, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Utah, and Dr. Micah Katz, a resident, part of the team who treated Austin, submitted the case, which was published on Wednesday, to The New England Journal of Medicine in an effort to warn the public about the dangers of vaping.

“I had no idea that these vape pens could blow up and cause serious injury,” said Dr. Russell, director of the trauma centre at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

“This technology hit the market by storm and people are not aware,” she added. “But the fact is they can burn you. They can explode in your pocket. They can explode in your face. I think there’s a health concern.”

Dr. Russell said that Austin told her he saw a big flash, felt terrible pain in his lower jaw and quickly pulled the device out of his mouth. He had a major fracture of his lower jaw, including about a 2-centimeter piece that had exploded and was missing, and he was also missing multiple teeth. The surgeons had to put a plate under his gum.

Dr. Russell said that she believed the injury was caused by an exploding battery but that she was not certain.

Xray of the jaw Image Credit: NYT, supplied by Primary Children’s Hospital

The family said Austin had been using a VGOD product. VGOD sells a range of vaping devices and liquid nicotine flavours, including Mango Bomb, Berry Bomb and Apple Bomb. VGOD markets its products to customers seeking a large vaping cloud, and promotes what it calls “tricking,” creating rings and unusual shapes with the smoky vapor.

The Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about e-cigarette and other vaping device injuries from overheating and exploding batteries. It is also exploring product standards to reduce battery problems. The agency does not tally the number of e-cigarette explosions or other mishaps.

On a web page offering tips to reduce such hazards, the agency wrote, “You may have heard that e-cigarettes, or ‘vapes,’ can explode and seriously injure people. Although they appear rare, these explosions are dangerous.”

A report in BMJ last year, using data from several federal agencies, found there were roughly 2,035 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries in the United States from 2015 to 2017.

The authors, led by Dr. Matthew E. Rossheim of George Mason University, said the number was most likely higher because accidents were not thoroughly tracked. The report also said that e-cigarettes, commonly powered by a lithium-ion battery, could overheat to the point of catching fire or exploding, a phenomenon known as thermal runaway.