E-cigarettes: If it can self-combust, it must be recalled — Mary Assunta

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OCT 30 — Last week there was a little fire inside a Malindo aircraft during its domestic flight when the e-cigarette a passenger was carrying exploded on his lap.

Yes, it was spontaneous combustion.

The passenger was injured and thank God for the doctor on board who attended to the passenger’s injuries.

One would expect the responsible thing for the manufacturer of these e-cigarettes to do is immediately withdraw the product from the market.

It is truly disappointing to read the comments of Malaysian Organisation of Vape Entity (MOVE) flippantly dismissing the Malindo incident as a case of ignorance, that is simply being blown out of proportion.

It appears their over-enthusiasm to champion the interest of their members has coloured their thinking and blinded them to the basic principles of consumer protection.

The e-cigarette battery explosion in Malindo is not the first and only incident of spontaneous combustion of the device. 

Last year, in Bintulu, a 53-year-old van driver died from his e-cigarette device which suddenly exploded. According to a news report the battery of the e-cigarette exploded and it popped out from the device.

The driver collapsed from the force of the explosion which struck his chest leaving a hole with burnt marks.

We don’t know the true extent of this spontaneous combustion problem and there may even be other cases that have gone unreported.

This is an open-and-shut case in consumer protection that warrants an immediate product recall.

In other cases of faulty consumer products, immediate action is taken. For example, Toyota recalled 127,000 vehicles in Malaysia between May and July this year over faulty Takata airbags.

I am not aware of any Takata air-bag related accidents and deaths in Malaysia.

About seven million Toyota vehicles have been recalled worldwide with another potentially 34 million vehicles affected in the United States.

The car manufacturer did not foolishly defend the defect, nor excuse it away by referring to the enormous size of its business, which is what pro-vapers are postulating in referring to the e-cigarette business being a half-a-billion-ringgit industry in Malaysia and the biggest in Asia.

This means there are more possible spontaneous combustion incidents waiting to happen.

Vapers are rehashing old promises the tobacco industry dishes out to governments over the years such as — we promise not to sell to minors, educate vendors not to sell to children and have a code of ethics to educate the public.

In the same breath groups such as Malaysian E-Vaporisers and Tobacco Alternative Association also admit that regulating is not going to be easy because the industry involves buying, selling and also manufacturing.

Yes, it will indeed be a nightmare in enforcement if the authorities were to just “regulate” e-cigarettes and not ban them.

Bottom line, the e-cigarette device can explode suddenly, anytime, anywhere, causing serious injury and even death to the user. For now, the immediate cause of action is to do what the Health Minister is proposing – ban e-cigarettes till further notice. 

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Malay Mail Online.

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