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Schumer: Feds Must Consider Recalls For Exploding E-Cigs; Enough Is Enough
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take a hard look at issuing recalls on e-cigarette batteries and devices that have caught fire and exploded, injuring dozens of users.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and that seems to be the case--again and again--for many popular e-cigarettes that have injured dozens of people,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “With any other product, serious action would have been taken—and e-cigarettes should be no exception. Despite the explosions, no recalls have been issued. It's radio silence from both the industry and the feds, so that’s why I’m sounding the alarm. The CPSC and FDA should investigate and determine which e-cigarette batteries and devices are the most volatile, and require a recall to make sure these explosions stop.
Schumer pointed to two recent incidents in New York City alone in which e-cigarette users suffered second and third-degree burns from devices that exploded in their pockets.
According to the FDA and an Associated Press chronicling from this past week, since 2009 there have been at least 92 exploding e-cigarette incidents. The AP analysis also explained that the numbers are likely undercut simply because many victims are not reporting the incidents. Moreover, according to a New York Times report, approximately 90 percent of the world’s e-cigarettes are produced in China. Despite these dangers, Schumer said that there have been no product recalls or defective warnings issued on e-cigarette products. The CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of consumer products. Therefore, Schumer says the CPSC should immediately investigate and review injury data to determine whether there is a pattern of injury that would require a product recall, and then issue any necessary recalls.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a mechanism inside the device that heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor that smokers then inhale and exhale. According to Wall Street Journalreport, dozens of lawsuits have been filed involving exploding e-cigarettes and many of the batteries at issue are manufactured by Chinese companies.
More than 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes and that number is growing. According to the FDA, between 2009 and September of 2015, there were 92 incidents of overheating, fire or explosion in e-cigarettes in the United States. According to the FDA’s report, 45 incidents injured 47 people and 67 incidents involved property damage beyond the product. Schumer said that many incidents likely go unreported and therefore, the number of exploding e-cigarettes may be even greater.
Reports of exploding e-cigarettes have occurred throughout the country, including in New York. Already this month there have been two e-cigarette explosions in the Northeast. In New York, a 24-year old, off-duty Bronx EMT suffered second-degree burns on his thigh and right hand when his e-cigarettes exploded in his pocket while driving. In Connecticut, a 24-year old man was badly when an e-cigarette exploding in his mouth while smoking. In late November, a man suffered third-degree burns when his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket while working at Central Cellars in Grand Central Station. The shocking incident was caught on security footage. Earlier this year, an e-cigarette exploded in the face of a 14-year old Brooklyn boy at a vape shop at Kings Plaza Mall in Mill Basin. According to reports, the boy is now blind in his left eye. Metal shards from the e-cigarette’s battery penetrated both of his eyes and left a large gash on his hands. Prior to this incident, a Queens woman was badly burned when a e-cigarette’s battery suddenly exploded in her pants pocket while behind the wheel of her car. The accident caused burning to her right leg and knee; she was taken to the hospital for third-degree burns. On Long Island, a Malverne resident was burned when an e-cigarette battery burst into flames in his pocket. And, a 17-year old Ogden resident was hospitalized when his e-cigarette exploded in his face, burning his face, hands, and throat.
In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule extending its regulatory authority to cover e-cigarettes, vaporizers and more. The FDA now has the power to regulate e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which Schumer strongly backed. The new rule allows the agency to regulate e-cigarettes, like they do traditional cigarettes. Specifically, under this rule, the FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale and distribution of electronic nicotine delivery systems.
Under current law, manufacturers and importers have an obligation to report potentially hazardous products to the CPSC. Schumer said that, with public reports of dozens of incidents involving exploding e-cigarettes, the CPSC and FDA should review whether there is a pattern related to specific e-cigarette products and take immediate action by issuing recalls.
Schumer’s letter to Commissioner Califf and Chairman Kaye appears below:
Dear Commissioner Califf and Chairman Kaye,
I write to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate steps to protect Americans from potentially dangerous electronic cigarettes. Several recent incidents of exploding e-cigarettes raise serious alarm regarding the safety of these devices. As agencies dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of Americans, the FDA and CPSC must act quickly and prevent more people from experiencing unnecessary harm.
According to the FDA, between 2009 and September of 2015, there were 92 incidents of overheating, fire or explosion in e-cigarettes in the United States. The FDA report cited 45 incidents injuring 47 people and 67 incidents involved property damage beyond the product. Most recently in New York, a young off-duty Bronx EMT suffered second-degree burns on his thigh and right hand when his e-cigarettes exploded in his pocket while driving. In November, a video recording of an employee at Grand Central Station shows an e-cigarette exploding in his pocket and catching his clothes on fire, burning his skin. These cases are only a few of several that have landed people in the hospital, some causing lasting harm.
In May 2016, the FDA released a final rule outlining the agency's authority to regulate e-cigarettes. The rule included language stating that the component parts used to ensure device functionality would also be under FDA authority which include the batteries that power these devices. Several reports suggest that the batteries used in e-cigarettes are to blame for a number of the explosions and fires that have occurred across the country. Until the ultimate cause of these hazardous events has been identifying and rectified, the FDA and CPSC must consider an appropriate response to prevent continued harm to consumers.