POSTED: 12:19 p.m. HST, Mar 03, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 05:08 p.m. HST, Mar 03, 2014
MEDFORD, Ore. » The lithium batteries that power the vaporizers in electronic cigarettes have caused two recent fires in Medford, and fire officials say users should be careful with the newly popular devices.
"Some of the batteries are failing in them or they are being overcharged," said Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg.
In one case, he said, a mattress caught fire but a resident put it out.
"If he didn't do that right away, it would have been a different story. It would have been a building fire instead of just a small item on fire," Kleinberg said.
Last week, an e-cigarette exploded while being charged, sending bits of burning battery flying into the ceiling and walls, he said. One hot piece of battery landed on a pillow, causing it to smolder and filling the house with smoke.
Electronic cigarettes are making waves in the marketplace.
They heat a liquid solution to create a vapor so users can get nicotine without smoking. It's touted as a healthier alternative to inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco leaves, and perhaps a way to quit.
But public health officials are alarmed, saying e-cigarettes perpetuate addiction, and there are moves underway across the nation to increase regulations on them and keep them from minors.
Most regulated electronic devices go through safety analysis conducted by Underwriters Laboratories or another nationally recognized testing laboratory before hitting the market, but Kleinberg said that hasn't happened with electronic cigarettes.
"A lot of these devices are not really regulated right now; some of them are UL listed and some are not. Some aren't tested at all," he said.
He had two pieces of advice for users: "Just unplug it when you go to bed. Make sure you have a working smoke alarm."