They may help smokers to get a nicotine hit without having to light up, but the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has warned on the risks of e-cigarettes after one device apparently exploded and caused a fire.
Four fire engines and over 20 firefighters were called to a fire in Barking, East London, Saturday and rescued a woman from a ground floor apartment. The woman was suffering from smoke inhalation and shock.
The blaze was believed to have started after an incompatible charger was used on an e-cigarette – an electronic inhaler usually containing nicotine that acts as a substitute for tobacco.
While the LFB Fire Investigation Team said it was the first fire it had seen involving an e-cigarette, it did state that there was an incident in Manchester recently where a female pensioner was burnt after lighting an e-cigarette while attached to an oxygen cylinder in hospital.
E-cigarettes are rising in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, analyst Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo Securities said "conservative data" already indicated that sales of e-cigarettes this year have already reached $700 million from traditional retail outlets like convenience stores in the U.S. They predicted that sales in the U.S. would reach $1.7 billion this year.
Data from consumer analyst Mintel found that sales of e-cigarettes increased by 340 percent between 2012 and 2013 in the U.K., from around £44 million ($73 million) to roughly £193 million ($322 million).
However, Charlie Pugsley, from the LFB Fire Investigation Team said in a statement: "People assume e-cigarettes are much safer than ordinary cigarettes, and in most cases they are."
"The danger is that people sometimes use incorrect chargers which runs the risk of over-charging, which can potentially have explosive results. We are calling on e-cig retailers to ensure they are selling the correct chargers for the cigarettes."
The LFB said that e-cigarette users should never leave the devices on charge overnight or while they were sleeping.
E-cigarettes could also be running into trouble at the United Nations. According to leaked documents seen by the Financial Times, some World Health Organisation staff have raised the possibility of regulating the electronic devices as severely as tobacco.