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  1. Vape batteries can cause deadly explosions, consumer safety agency warns The CPSC says to stop buying or using individual 18650 battery cells, which can lead to explosions or fires Photo by Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images Consumers should not buy or use individual 18650 lithium-ion battery cells due to possible fire risk, according to a warning just issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The commission says it is working with e-commerce sites like eBay to remove listings of loose 18650 cells, which are sometimes used in vapes, e-cigarettes, flashlights, and toys. “[T]hese battery cells may have exposed metal positive and negative terminals that can short-circuit when they come into contact with metal objects, such as keys or loose change in a pocket,” the agency wrote Friday. “Once shorted, loose cells can overheat and experience thermal runaway, igniting the cell’s internal materials and forcibly expelling burning contents, resulting in fires, explosions, serious injuries and even death.” Two rechargeable Li-ion batteries, an 18650 and an 14500, next to a standard AA for scale. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge Injuries related to exploding 18650 cells have been documented for a few years now, but the frequency seems to have increased along with their availability on sites like Amazon or from wholesale retailers. One of the companies that makes 18650 cells, LG Chem, asked distributors of e-cigarette equipment in a late 2018 letter to stop selling them, warning that “[i]ndividual consumer use and handling” that could “lead to severe burns and disfigurement,” according to a report in The Atlantic. Samsung and Sony also warn consumers against using the cells. We do have some questions about why the CPSC is unilaterally warning against all loose 18650 batteries, and why the CPSC is singling out the 18650 alone. “They are often misused as a stand-alone consumer battery, but do not have protection circuits,” writes the agency, but you can buy 18650 batteries that do come with protection circuits — see an example in the picture above. The 18650 isn’t the only Li-ion battery that has the potential for misuse, either — you can buy standalone 14500 cells as well, which are roughly the same size as a standard AA but more than twice the voltage (don’t put them into your remote). You can also purchase the 16340, a rechargeable cell similar to the single-use CR123A you might put into a smoke detector. We’ve contacted the CPSC and will update with any answers we get. 18650 cells are larger, higher density, and often used in more heavy-duty commercial settings, and even power Tesla’s Model X and Model S vehicles — though the CPSC acknowledges that’s fine, since it’s their intended use. That said, there is a small but growing DIY community springing up around building custom battery packs for e-bikes and even electric cars using 18650 cells bought on the internet. This isn’t the first time the CPSC has intervened in battery tech. Back when hoverboards were bursting into flames, the agency demanded manufactures recall their unsafe products and threatened to seize ones that were non-compliant at the border. The agency was also in charge of investigating when the Note 7 started catching on fire, although in that case Samsung worked with the agency to get the product recalled before the agency forced them to do so. Source: Vape batteries can cause deadly explosions, consumer safety agency warns
  2. Teens who start vaping are nearly three times more likely to go on to smoke cigarettes than their peers who don’t use any type of tobacco product, a new study finds. The results are alarming for both medical experts — who would rather kids not smoke — and for the e-cigarette industry, which is increasingly marketing its products as smoking-cessation tools for adults. Today’s study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, couldn’t say whether vaping caused the kids to go on to smoking. But the study authors did find some pretty strong associations between vaping and later cigarette smoking, particularly for kids who would normally be considered “low risk” for substance use: the ones that aren’t big on thrill-seeking, drinking, or misusing prescription drugs. The findings are especially timely in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement that 3.6 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. The paper comes on the heels of a major clinical study that showed e-cigarettes helped a small proportion of adult smokers quit cigarettes. The back-to-back publications show the tightrope on which regulators and the e-cigarette industry are walking: on one hand, e-cigarettes may wind up being a useful tool for helping adults stop smoking. On the other hand, there’s a growing body of evidence that they act as what FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called an “on ramp” to the more dangerous, combustible kind of cigarette. Today’s study adds a new link in that worrying chain of correlation. “These two papers highlight the conundrum public health policymakers are faced with,” says Gideon St. Helen, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the research, in an email to The Verge. There are a few limitations, including that the study looks at a window of time before Juul really took off, says Michael Ong, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA who didn’t participate in the study. That means the results aren’t a perfect window into the e-cigarette market of today. Still, he says, “This study probably gives us the best estimates yet of what we might expect in terms of individuals who use electronic cigarettes as youth, and what might happen to them.” The massive Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study — a long-term, nationwide survey of tobacco product use — provided the data for the study. Researchers led by Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor of global health at Boston University, analyzed survey responses from more than 6,100 12- to 15-year-olds between 2013 and 2016 who answered questions about their families, their tolerance for risk, and what they liked to smoke or vape. About 8.6 percent said the first tobacco products they used were e-cigarettes, 5 percent said they tried other tobacco products like hookah or cigarillos first, and 3.3 percent said they started with cigarettes. By the end of the study, the percentage of kids who tried at least one or two puffs of cigarettes had grown to 20.5 percent. Kids who started out trying e-cigarettes were roughly four times more likely to go on to try cigarettes, and nearly three times more likely to have used cigarettes in the past 30 days compared to their classmates who didn’t vape or smoke anything. The odds were similar for the other non-cigarette tobacco products, but fewer started out with them. The link between e-cigarette use and eventual cigarette use was especially strong for low-risk kids. Those are the kids who aren’t big on thrill-seeking, who don’t drink or take prescription drugs without a prescription, and who thought they’d say no if their friends offered them a smoke. “This by itself is noteworthy,” St. Helen says. Even more surprising is that specific link wasn’t true for the kids who started with other types of tobacco, like hookah or cigarillos: all the kids, from low- to high-risk, were about as equally likely to go on to try cigarettes. “There seems to be something unique about e-cigarettes that leads to this increased risk of smoking initiation among low-risk youth,” St. Helen says. The study authors don’t get into why that might be. Maybe starting out with vaping gets otherwise low-risk kids hooked on nicotine, or maybe it normalizes smoking behavior so they’re less turned off by cigarettes later on. But the researchers do run the numbers for how their results might shake out across the US. They estimate that more than 43,400 young cigarette smokers might have started with e-cigarettes over a two-year period between 2013 and 2016. That’s assuming the link is causal, however, which the study can’t say for sure. (It’s a major limitation of the study.) Plus, the survey didn’t ask which e-cigarettes the kids were using, so the researchers couldn’t say if specific types of e-cigarettes predisposed kids more to using cigarettes later. And even if it had, the results are already outdated because Juul started dominating the market after the survey started. Future studies will have to investigate how the rise of Juul has changed those results, Ong says. In the meantime, he says, “We’re all concerned it would lead to more use because they’re going to be addicted to a greater degree given that the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod is equal to about 20 cigarettes.” The medical community has been looking forward to these results, which give regulators another reason to try to curb youth vaping, Ong says. “The hard thing is that there’s going to always be this counterbalance of, ‘Is there value to these products?’” St. Helen agrees, calling today’s study a “well-done, rigorous analysis” that highlights the difficult balance the FDA will have to strike as it decides how to go forward with regulating the growing e-cigarette industry. Source
  3. Vaping may or may not be healthier than smoking conventional cigarettes, but a recent incident involving a teenage boy, in which an exploding e-cigarette blew out several of his teeth and cracked open his jaw, is a serious cause for concern. A one-paragraph-long case study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine describes the extensive damage that can be caused by exploding e-cigarettes. Around a year ago, a 17-year-old male showed up at the emergency room with pain and swelling in his jaw. Two hours previously, a vape had exploded in his mouth as he was using it. The doctors treating him observed a circular puncture to his chin and large gashes inside his mouth. A 3D scan of the teen’s head revealed the true extent of the damage. “The vape blew up his lower jaw causing a major fracture and bone loss,” said Katie Russell, a pediatric trauma surgeon who treated the boy at the University of Utah Health Care and Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. “He also lost multiple teeth, had a large cut in his mouth, and some lip burns.” 3D scan of the teen’s head (left) and a photograph of the injuries inside the teen’s mouth (right). The hospital’s ear, neck, and throat surgeon added a plate to the teen’s lower mandible and wired the jaw shut. A dentist installed a small device (as shown in the photograph above) to secure the teen’s teeth while the jaw healed, explained Russell. Six weeks later, an assessment revealed the teen was recovering well, and the wire ligature was removed. More than a year later, the teen “is still missing teeth but hopes to get implants this summer,” Russell told Gizmodo in an email. She added: “He quit smoking after this.” When asked to comment on the sudden surge in vaping, Russell did not mince words, describing the trend as an “epidemic.” “Vaping hit the market with storm and millions of youth are using these devices,” she said. “It seems like the overall feeling is that vaping is more innocent than smoking conventional cigarettes, but I’m not sure we know that. Nicotine is detrimental for the developing brain. In addition to that, these devices can explode causing major harm. This is becoming more and more common.” Source
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