E-cig users report severe burns after devices explode

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - Electronic cigarettes are supposed to give smokers a nicotine fix without the downside of smoke. But multiple people are telling us they were injured by their e-cigs.

A Wentzville man who wants to remain anonymous was just walking across his bar, and all of a sudden an explosion went off in his pants pocket! He said his e-cig battery ignited like a firework, leaving him with third-degree burns.

Troy, Missouri native Jason Kinsler said the same thing happened to him.

“I was walking outside and all hell broke loose in my pocket,” he said.

Kinsler has third-degree burns all over his right leg. He’s since undergone four skin grafts to repair the physical scars.

And Washington, Missouri native Will Cooley also suffered third-degree burns and lifetime injuries under the same circumstances.

“It just exploded in my pocket, no rhyme or reason,” he said.

Attorney Brad Wilmouth of Page Law currently represents a dozen e-cig burn victims, 10 of whom are in our area. He said the government did studies in 2013 and found out these lithium batteries could “blow up” on consumers. Wilmouth also said the NTSB has banned them on flights in 2015 but for some reason the government is not federally regulating them.

The U.S. Fire Administration has documented 25 e-cig explosions and fires between 2009 and 2014. But according to Page Law, there has been an uptick in reported explosions in the last 6 months.

“I don’t know if a new batch of batteries is coming overseas that is defective or what, but there has been an increase in problems,” Wilmouth said.

The federal agency calls the lithium batteries “flaming rockets” when a battery fails. With reports nationwide of exploding e-cigs, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D – New York) wants an investigation into why some batteries are burning users.

Here at home, Wilmouth believes vape shops should warn consumers. He also has a warning for Missouri sellers.

“Our state has a chain of distribution liability, meaning any company associated in making or selling an e-cig that goes bad is liable for any problems,” he said. “Ultimately, the manufacturers are the ones responsible for making the batteries that these people say are exploding.”

Page Law is going after the manufacturers responsible for their clients’ injuries but it’s not easy locating the companies overseas in an unregulated arena.

“Hopefully this gets the message out to the government to do something, because right now it’s the Wild West!”

Wilmouth said he would not advise using any kind of e-cig until the government begins regulating them, because his clients never thought anything like this would happen to them.

Fox 2 News reached out to a couple of battery manufacturers for comment, but they did not respond.As for Jason and Will’s injuries, doctors said the burns will affect them in one way or another for the rest of their lives. If this has happened to you, feel free to contact Page Law.