UK: E-Cigarettes – A Fire Risk?

E-Cigarettes have grown in popularity since they emerged as a safer and healthier option to their tobacco containing counterparts.

What is an E-Cigarette?

An E-Cigarette is usually made up of: a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an atomiser and a replaceable or refillable cartridge containing liquid nicotine, flavours and other chemicals. The battery heats up a coil attached to a wick, which heats liquid containing nicotine, creating vapour that is then inhaled.

Smoking an e-cigarette is more accurately described as 'vaping'. It is claimed that 'vaping' is safer than smoking because of the absence of tobacco and smoke.

In a market worth GBP 90 million, there are approximately 1.3 million users of E-Cigarettes in the UK, a figure which is expected to increase rapidly over the next few years.

What are the fire risks?

E-Cigarettes are a relatively new product and therefore their risks, including their fire risks, are not yet fully understood. Despite the fact that you do not light an E-Cigarette, there are still fire risks associated with this product.

One of the fire risks associated with E-Cigarettes is the potential to overheat, catch fire and even explode whilst charging; such incidents have caused several minor fires across the UK in the last year. These fires have resulted in a number of injuries, including first and second degree burns and one incident tragically resulted in the death of an elderly lady. It has also been reported that an E-Cigarette exploded whilst a man was 'vaping', causing injury to his tongue.

Many of the batteries within these devices do not have over-current protection which is found in mobile phones, meaning the E-Cigarette will continue to charge even when fully charged.

In order to minimise the risk of fire, it is advisable to only use the charger supplied with your E-Cigarette and avoid leaving E-Cigarettes on charge overnight or for long periods of time whilst unattended.

Is there any regulation of this fire risk?

Currently, there is no regulation of the fire-risks associated with E-Cigarettes, nor are there any plans to introduce such regulation. As it stands, the fire safety of E-Cigarettes remains uncertain and extreme care should be exercised with a product so new to the UK marketplace.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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