The Daily Mail yesterday published the story of Andrew Hall of Idaho in the US who suffered burns and injuries when his e-cigarette exploded while he was getting ready for work. Naturally, many people will be horrified and ask questions about the safety of vaping, but it is important to note that the circumstances are highly unusual.
Mr Hall was using a device known as a ‘mech’, which can be unstable if in the wrong hands. Mechs are early adopter ‘unregulated’ technology which require a very good standard of knowledge before anyone even attempts to use them. In this case, however, Mr Hall had contravened basic rules of battery safety, and was completely unaware of the enormous stress he was placing on the power source with the extremely low resistance self-made coil he was using. It was a disaster just waiting to happen.
His user error was compounded by the fact that the shop where he sourced his supplies should have ensured that he was competent with such equipment. Vendors should not be selling these types of device to people who are not fully educated as to how they should be used because – as this case shows - they are dangerous unless the user has a very good understanding of battery capability and Ohm’s Law. It could even be argued that mechs (and similar ‘hybrids’ which are also potentially hazardous) should not be commercially available since the advent of regulated mods - which incorporate failsafes to prevent the causes of this type of incident – has rendered them largely unnecessary.
Although it is understandable that the Mail’s article will create widespread concern about e-cigarettes, smokers should not be deterred from attempting to switch as a result of this unfortunate, but isolated, case. Mech mods are outdated technology, used almost exclusively by niche hobbyists, so it is extremely unlikely that a High Street vape shop would even have these on sale, let alone offer one to an unsuspecting new vaper.
Mr Hall’s experience does, however, raise an issue of great importance for us in the UK.
This type of occurrence has been woefully overlooked by the regulations placed on e-cigarettes by the European Union’s 2014 Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). In their zeal to fiddle around pointlessly with bottle sizes and tanks, the real dangers have been completely overlooked by bureaucrats in Brussels. There is nothing in the TPD which would have stopped a similar explosion happening here. In fact, these particular devices are free to be sold in the UK because they are not remotely addressed by the regulations contained in Article 20 of the TPD which relates to e-cigarettes.
As the government looks to negotiate the terms for Brexit, it should seriously consider abandoning regulations on e-cigarettes contained in the UK’s Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR), which were guided by Article 20 of the TPD. Instead, we should be looking to implement our own regulations on vaping in order to unleash the full public health benefits of e-cigarettes by liberalising controls on advertising, nicotine strength and tank sizes, while also applying sensible measures which would prevent dangerous incidents such as the one highlighted by this case.
One of the aims of the Freedom to Vape campaign is to remove the regulations imposed on the vaping industry by the TPD and this is a very good example as to why we believe this is necessary.