Death from a “Mech Mod” Vape Pen

July 9, 2018 / Product Injury

It’s been noted previously that e-cigarettes can explode, usually because of the lithium-ion (LI) battery in use. A number of e-cigarette accidents have taken place with horrific results. But in May, 2018, a vape pen malfunction meant death in St. Petersburg, Florida, where a man was found burned on 80 percent of his body. It is believed to be the first death directly attributed to a vape pen or e-cigarette.

But it wasn’t the burns that killed him. He died because the force of the explosion drove two pieces of the vape pen into his skull. The man was using something called a mechanical mod vape pen, or a “mech mod.” Mech mods are frequently used by more experienced vapers, but they expose a person to more hazards.

What Are E-Cigarettes and Vape Pens?

E-cigarettes differ from vape pens in that the latter have twice the battery power and a larger amount of flavored liquid in them. Using a vape pen means you don’t need to refill it or charge it as frequently as an e-cigarette, a plus for daily vapers.

If you are a vape pen regular, you might be intrigued by the mechanical mod world. Mech mods, as they are known, are a simpler form of the vape pen because the devices deliver power directly to the portion that creates the vapors, known as the atomizer. An enclosure, also called a housing, can be made out of a number of materials, completing the mech mod.

The Devices Need Battery Power

Like an e-cigarette, the power supply for a vape pen (including a mechanical mod) comes from one or more lithium-ion batteries. (Mech mods can have multiple batteries, which increases their riskiness.) LI batteries in phones and laptop computers were in the news in previous years because of battery fires and explosions. Concerns about fires in cargo holds led the FAA to limit packed spare LI batteries to carry-on luggage, with the proviso that battery terminals must be blocked from any contact that might cause a short circuit.

The distinctive feature of the mechanical mods that are known as “unregulated” mods consists of the lack of circuitry available to control the batteries’ voltage flow. Unregulated mech mods are widely considered riskier to use than an e-cigarette or a regular vape pen because LI battery voltage can fluctuate uncontrollably. It is this variability of LI battery voltage that makes them risky and more likely to cause harm when the voltage is not constrained by circuitry.

The man who died in Florida was using an unregulated mod distributed by a Philippines-based company called Smok-E Mountain Mech Works. The company insists that their products do not explode, stating that a cloned battery (that is, a non-authentic battery of inferior quality) or a faulty atomizer must have been the cause.

LI Batteries in Vape Pens and E-Cigarettes

These small electronic devices can blow up or burst into flame unexpectedly, sometimes with the battery or batteries violently ejected from the device. From 2009 to 2016, e-cigarettes and vape pens were responsible for 133 injuries, 38 of them extremely serious, which happened during 195 explosions and fires. The severe injuries included third degree burns, a broken neck, sight loss, broken teeth, and the loss of speaking ability. The U.S. Fire Administration, part of FEMA, blames LI batteries for all of the fires and explosions.

To date (mid-June, 2018), e-cigarettes and vape pens are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the FDA does recommend the following steps for safe usage of vaping devices:

  • Never charge an e-cigarette/vape pen with a phone charger.
  • Do not leave an e-cigarette/vape pen unattended during the charging process.
  • Do not mix battery types (old and new, or different brands).
  • Never allow loose batteries to contact other metal objects like keys or coins in your pocket.

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

Have you or a loved one been injured while using an e-cigarette or a vape pen? If you think you might have a case, keep in mind that in Indiana there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and to make your family’s future financially secure.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a vape pen/e-cigarette accident, we suggest you talk with the Indianapolis product liability lawyers at Stephenson Rife. Both Mike Stephenson, with his more than three decades of experience, and Brady Rife, with his diverse experience in personal injury litigation, will commit to the highest standards of client care in your case. Call Mike or Brady today for a free consultation. If you prefer, use our online contact form.

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