FDA to Hold Public Workshop on E-Cigarette Explosions

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) announced in the Federal Register its concerns related to exploding e-cigarette batteries and batteries used in other so-called electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The agency will hold a public two day workshop in Silver Spring, MD on April 19 and 20 on e-cigarette explosions and fires. Registration for the workshop closed on March 17.

Invited participants include the public, tobacco product manufacturers, importers, researchers, and academic investigators of e-cigarette battery fires and explosions. Under a rule that became effective on August 8, 2016, e-cigarettes are now subject to the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act. I am not aware of the FDA promulgating any regulations under the Act regarding the safety of the lithium ion batteries used to power the heating elements in e-cigarettes, but such regulations may result from the FDA’s planned information gathering session.

Incidents of e-cigarette battery explosions are significantly under reported. Those that have been reported include explosions that occurred during recharging, while the battery or device containing the battery is in a person’s pants pocket, and while the device is in use. The latter result in severe injuries to the face and hands. The pocket explosions result in severe burns to the legs and groin.

The FDA suspects that many battery fire and explosion incidents involve defective lithium ion batteries made in China and other countries that do not regulate the products. As any American who has recently been on a commercial airplane knows, e-cigarette fire and explosion hazards are so widely recognized that passengers are banned from boarding a flight if they are carrying such devices. As of last May, all forms of electronic smoking devices are banned from checked baggage. The ban followed several incidents of e-cigarettes catching fire inside checked luggage.

It is time for the FDA to figure out why these batteries keep exploding and to take regulatory action. One hopes that this occurs before the Administration “deconstructs” the FDA, giving free reign to Chinese manufacturers to maim U.S. consumers.