E-cigarette explodes in mouth of teen, shattering teeth and jaw

A prestigious medical journal publicizes the case of a 17-year old from Nevada to warn the public about the dangers of vaping.

Sara Rubenstein,

Electronic cigarette
Electronic cigarette
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

A 17-year old teenager from Ely, Nevada arrived at the emergency room with a fractured jaw, missing teeth and a hole in his chin. Doctors said his injuries appeared similar to those incurred from close-range gunshot fire or a high-speed car crash, but this teen was injured while sitting in the privacy of his own home when his vape pen exploded in his mouth.

The teen, identified as Austin, was injured last year in March but his case was publicized on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine to warn the public about the dangers of vaping.

Austin's mother, Kailani Burton, told The Washington Post that Austin started smoking e-cigarettes last year to help him quit smoking. After reading up on it, he was convinced it was safe so Burton bought him a vape pen from VGOD, a company which sells e-cigarettes and vape pen devices.

A month later, on March 26, 2018, Burton had just arrived home from work and was talking to her husband when they heard a loud bang. Burton said she initially thought that a circuit breaker had shorted. Instead, Austin ran in screaming that his e-cigarette had blown up. His mouth was oozing blood and there was a hole in his chin.

Burton rushed him to the hospital, only to find out that the hospital in Ely (a small city north of Las Vegas) was not equipped to treat such a severe injury. Burton had to drive over 200 miles to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, a five-hour trip.

There, Austin finally received the treatment he needed by a team led by Dr. Katie Russell of the University of Utah Health Care. The team removed tissue and several teeth from Austin's mouth due to their destroyed sockets and stabilized his jaw with a titanium plate. However, Austin's mouth still wouldn't close properly so they sewed his gumline together and wired his jaw shut for six weeks.

"We had no idea that vape pens could cause such a substantial injury,” Russel told the Post. “It takes a serious amount of force to break your jaw and to break it in the way that he did."

Austin has made a full recovery from his injuries and recently graduated high school. And the story holds a silver lining— Austin has completely stopped smoking all types of cigarettes.

Unfortunately, there have been other reports of e-cigarettes exploding. In May 2018, a man needed 65 stitches to repair his face after his e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. He also suffered burns to his face, mouth and hand due to being splashed with battery acid during the explosion. The man has filed a lawsuit against three companies for his injuries.

In February of this year, a man died in Texas after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth and severed his carotid artery in his neck.

According to the FDA website, it is unclear why vape pens explode but some evidence points to issues with batteries.

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