A portable vaporizer exploded in the hand of a Florida man this month, in what has been described as the first fatality directly caused by the increasingly-popular devices. When he was found by first responders, D’Elia had severe burns on 80% of his body.
After further investigation, officials believe that it was D’Elia’s Smok-E Mountain Mech Works brand mechanical mod that caused his accidental death.
The contents of D’Elia’s vape pen have not been released, but mechanical mods are typically used in nicotine vape pens, while THC and CBD vaporizers generally rely on the type of lithium ion batteries found in cell phones and laptops. Still, both legal and black market cannabis extractors already offer cannabis-infused e-liquid or vape juice that is compatible with modifiable vaporizers like the one that killed D’Elia. Until 2016, the F.D.A. did not regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Once that changed, vaporizer companies were going to be required to submit a premarket tobacco application in order to stay on shelves, but the deadline for the application was pushed to 2022.
“No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body,” a 2017 report from the U.S. Fire Administration detailed. “It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen. While the failure rate of the lithium-ion batteries is very small, the consequences of a failure, as we have seen, can be severe and life-altering for the consumer.”
Currently, batteries and modifications made to accommodate both nicotine and cannabis-based vaporizers can be purchased in smoke shops, gas stations, and on the internet with few if any barriers to access or enforced regulations.