PENSACOLA, Fla. – A faulty battery caused an electronic cigarette to explode in a man's mouth, taking out some of his front teeth, a chunk of his tongue and severely burning his face, fire officials said.
Tom Holloway, 57, was trying to quit smoking so he was puffing on the device Monday night when it blew up, fire officials said. Officials have not identified the victim, but a Facebook page under his name was filled with well-wishers commenting on the injury and database searches matched his address with his name.
"The best analogy is like it was trying to hold a bottle rocket in your mouth when it went off," said Joseph Parker, division chief for the North Bay Fire Department. "The battery flew out of the tube and set the closet on fire."
Parker said fire investigators do not know the brand of cigarette, type of battery or age of the device. It appears the battery was rechargeable lithium because a recharging station and other batteries were in the room, he said.
Parker said he has forwarded information about the blaze to the Fire Marshall's Office to include in any databases on the devices. But Parker said he has yet to hear of any similar instances.
Fire Chief Joseph Miller said the victim contacted the department on Wednesday to thank firefighters and told them he was recovering at a hospital in Mobile, Alabama.
Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, said the industry knows of no problems with the cigarettes or batteries exploding.
Kicklas said the cigarettes include a small battery and cartridge. The battery is designed to generate an electric charge when the device is inhaled. The charge sets off the vapor in the cigarette tube.
Kiklas cited a federal report that found 2.5 million Americans used electronic cigarettes last year.
"There have been billions and billions of puffs on the cigarettes and we have not heard of this happening before," he said.
Holloway and his family members did not immediately answer The Associated Press' requests for interviews.