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Opinion: Is my e-cig going to explode in my face?

Let’s dispel the myth that electronic cigarettes blow up on people out of nowhere. Surely by now, the vast majority of folks are aware that electronic cigarettes are a thing, and that they are here to stay.
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Stories about e-cigarettes exploding in people’s faces are not uncommon. What is uncommon are news stories explaining why these explosions occur. File photo
Let’s dispel the myth that electronic cigarettes blow up on people out of nowhere.

Surely by now, the vast majority of folks are aware that electronic cigarettes are a thing, and that they are here to stay. Through social media, news outlets, and blogs, one can discover a vast amount of conflicting information on the topic. Whether it’s about electronic cigarettes being significantly healthier — or more harmful — than smoking a traditional cigarette, it’s out there.

But the most troubling is the myth about these devices being prone to spontaneous explosion.

Working in a rather popular vape shop, I get to inform new customers about how the devices work on a daily basis, and oftentimes reassure them such things will not happen to them.

Before I continue, let’s talk a little bit about how these devices function. Electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, vapes, whatever term you decide is most appropriate, operate using the basic principles of — you guessed it — electricity.

Power, ohms, voltage, amperage — all are relevant and important things in the vape world. A battery (often referred to as the mod) sends power to a small resistor (the atomizer), which then heats up and turns the e-juice liquid into vapor.

If you’re using a basic pen-style setup, these principles don't matter nearly as much to you. But if you begin to delve into even the slightly more advanced side of things, having a basic understanding of electricity is of the utmost importance. Why is this? Simply put, so you don’t blow yourself up.

I recently read an article about an individual who experienced such a thing.

Unfortunately, it failed to provide any real information about what actually went wrong — something all too common when media reports on stories like these.

In the aforementioned article, there is video that includes footage of the device in question, as well as gruesome images of the injured user. If you don’t know anything about e-cigarettes or how they work, it looks absolutely horrific.

But to those who do know a thing or two about these devices, stories like this raise questions about the management of the shop where it was purchased.

Let’s talk about the device in question, the Phantom model by e-cigarette manufacturer Wotofo. What you see in the video footage is a mechanical mod with a hybrid top cap screwed onto a tank that does not have a protruding 510 pin.

Sound like mumbo jumbo? Let me elaborate.

A mechanical mod is quite literally a metal tube with a battery in it. The hybrid top cap is a type of connector that allows the atomizer (which produces the vapor) to make a direct connection to the battery, with nothing in between. This fact is important to why the mod exploded.

A 510 pin is how most atomizers connect to mods. With a “non-protruding” pin, the battery will make a connection directly with the top cap itself. And there’s the problem.

Batteries carry ratings for how much power can be pulled from them at once. This is called “amp draw.” The less resistance there is, the quicker the battery will drain, and the higher the amp draw will be.

In the case of this Alberta teen’s mod, the battery he was using didn’t make an actual connection to the atomizer, meaning there was no resistance and no resistor for the power from the battery to go to.

Why is this bad? Because a set-up like this causes the battery to drain all of its stored power into the “ground,” or in this case, the mod itself. Batteries drained too quickly overheat and have to vent themselves. Given that this mod was simply a metal tube, the battery vented into the tube itself, turning the device into something of a small-scale pipe bomb.

The teen was using the wrong type of battery with the wrong type of top cap. He should have better informed himself, or the store he bought the pieces from should have better advised him.

This is akin to purchasing an enthusiast-level vehicle when you don’t have a driver’s licence. We can only speculate on the interaction that happened at the vape shop. Did the customer suspect the safer, more expensive, regulated mod was an upsell? Was the shop owner hungry for a sale and neglected to inform the customer of the risks involved on that particular unit?

We don’t know. Something I do know is that this would not happen at my store. We would never let a setup like that walk out the door, let alone entertain the idea of assembling such a monstrosity.

Electricity is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Do your research before making a purchase. Ask for advice. Listen to the recommendations of the salesperson who serves you. Making sure you’re safe is the best way to enjoy everything this global community has to offer.

Matt Boucher is a vape enthusiast in Greater Sudbury. You can find him dispensing vaping wisdom and advice at Juice on the Loose on Barrydowne Road.


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