With a new marriage, and a new year ahead, newlywed Chantz Mondragon figured it was a good time to break an old habit.
“I originally got the device to quit smoking,” stated Chantz. “It is supposed to be a safe alternative.”
The device he's referring to is one that’s gaining popularity- electronic cigarettes.
“It definitely helps cut back on actual cigarettes- especially all the negative or downsides.”
It seems Chantz isn’t the only one these days giving e-cigs a try.
“The industry is definitely blowing up,” stated Tyler Wood, manager at Paradise Vapors. “Business over the last year has been crazy with smokers who want to quit smoking.”
Manufacturers and retailers selling e-cigs say the devices are supposed to be just like smoking, but without as much ‘nasty stuff.’
“Your body is going to get that craving without all the tar, the smoke, the odor, the smell, the taste, your lungs will feel better,” Wood explained.
Electronic cigarettes do not produce a flame or smoke. Instead, users inhale a water vapor infused with nicotine. Consumers can also purchase models or refills that do not contain nicotine. E-cigs are powered by batteries.
“The only thing that you lungs are supposed to be inhaling is oxygen. So is it ideal? No,” admitted Wood.
Tyler claims, when compared to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are much safer for smokers. Experts say tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of them believed to cancer-causing agents. E-cigs, on the other hand, contained far fewer carcinogens identified during studies by the Food and Drug Administration. Unlike tobacco, however, e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA.
The idea of a supposed ‘safer smoke’ sounded good to Chantz. However, he was about to find out there was a hazard he wasn’t’ expecting.
On Christmas Eve, Chantz says he was sitting with his wife in bed while watching television. His e-cig was charging up through a USB port on his laptop computer.
“I looked over and it started to get really hot and see that there was some smoke or steam coming from it,” recalled Chantz. “At that point I saw a little snap or a little spark. And, at that point the whole thing just engulfed in fire. It blew flames out the battery end,” he exclaimed.
Chantz described the explosion as, “a searing hot blinding light like a magnesium sparkler, [like] whenever you see a person welding.”
The flames took less than 20 seconds to do their damage.
“I am sitting there hobbling around. And my bed is on fire. It caught my, it burned all the way through my king size mattress down to the box set.”
Chantz and his wife eventually got the flames out. But, that is when the pain- and seriousness of the matter began to set in.”
“The skin on my foot and leg was charred and it was black. It literally burned off a couple layers of the top skin,” he explained. “I sustained second degree burns on my leg and right foot.”
Chantz went to the emergency room of a local hospital. His injuries took weeks to recover from.
“I have never been the luckiest person in the world. So it seems like if it were to happen to me it would happen like this.”
Looking back, Chantz thinks he likely used the wrong charger. He says he had no idea his choice could end up with explosive consequences.
Retailers say incidents such as this area rare. However, they do urge consumers to use caution, as with any electronic device.
“If you are not using that charger that you’re supposed to use for it (say you plug it into your phone charger or something like that) there is a risk of it not shutting off,” stated Tyler Wood. “And then it pretty much becomes a flare. They can erupt just like a road flare would.”
Chantz is not the only person to have an e-cig explode on him. There have been at least a dozen cases, nationwide, since 2010 of fires and burns caused by the overheated batteries in the devices. Almost every single one of the incidents happened while the e-cigs were being charged.