There are now an estimated 3.6 million e-cigarette users in the UK, a number which has risen from 700,000 since 2012. In March 2016 it was reported that there had been 113 fires caused by e-cigarettes during the previous three years in the UK – a number which is also likely to have risen due to the technology’s increased popularity. According to the London Fire Brigade, 24 fires a week are caused by all types of batteries and chargers in the capital alone.
As the dangers that can be posed by vape batteries become clear, The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) and CTSI have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the safest ways of using e-cigarette batteries and chargers.
According to Mark Gardiner, one of CTSI’s Joint Lead Officers for Product Safety, “There has been a significant growth in the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) in recent years, and many of these devices are powered by what’s known as a 18650-style battery.
“There have been numerous reports of hazardous failure modes of the devices containing these batteries, resulting in serious injury and also death.
“Where products are supplied with the battery already installed, the manufacturer of this device has generally added a battery management system to ensure safe charging and discharging. If designed correctly it will include limitations on the current drawn to ensure that the battery is never overstressed.”
According to the London Fire Brigade, the risks around vaping tend to come from counterfeit or faulty products and poor charging practices.
The new campaign urges users to:
- only use the charger that came with your vape (never charge your vape with a phone, tablet or other device charger)
- protect the vape from extreme temperatures (don’t leave your vape or spare batteries in direct sunlight or in your car on a freezing cold night)
- regularly inspect the batteries
- stop using and replace your batteries if they get damaged, wet or leak
- unplug the charger once it’s fully charged
- store spare batteries in a plastic case
- keep spare batteries away from other metal objects like coins or keys in a pocket or bag to avoid accidental contact as this can cause a short circuit
Gardiner added: “Many 18650-style batteries are not designed for use in vapes and some manufacturers have stated that their 18650 battery design is not intended for use in the high-power handheld devices favoured by many in the vaping community. The designation 18650 refers to the size, but nothing else, so there may be products described in this way with different chemistries and therefore different voltages.
Chief Executive of CTSI, Leon Livermore, said: “It’s very important for everyone who vapes to take charge of their own battery safety. Injuries can be severe, but if a battery fails and explodes then obviously it’s an extra hazard if it’s in your mouth.”
A spate of news stories over the past few years both in the UK and internationally have highlighted the potential risks of vape batteries, and the items have been the subject of product recalls due to concerns over safety.
Materials to support the campaign, including a downloadable poster, can be found here.