The United States Navy has placed an indefinite ban on the use of electronic cigarettes aboard its ships, submarines and aircraft after multiple sailors suffered serious injuries from the device batteries exploding and catching fire.
In a statement Friday, the U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs said that the policy had been implemented “to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment.”
The ban, which will go into effect May 14 and “remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis,” will apply to the use of e-cigarettes by any personnel on Navy craft or equipment.
“This new policy is in response to continued reports of explosions of ENDS [Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems] due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries,” the statement continued. “Multiple Sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement, or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.”
A customer tries a Philip Morris' "iQOS" smokeless tobacco e-cigarette at an iQOS store in Tokyo, Japan, March 3, 2016. Toru Hanai/Reuters
A memo from the Navy last September outlined the growing problem of vaping onboard Navy vessels and aircraft. The document stated that there had been 15 “mishaps” between October 2015 and June 2016, resulting in injuries to navy personnel or material damage to equipment.
Of the recent incidents, two required firefighting equipment to be used, with one resulting in an aircraft having to return to base due to smoke in the cargo section of the aircraft. Another ten occurred while the e-cigarette was in the pocket of a Navy sailor, which typically led to their clothing catching fire and first and second-degree burns on their legs and torso. Two further battery explosions happened when the e-cigarette was in the individual’s mouth, leading to facial and dental injuries.
After May 15, sailors will only be allowed to vape on shore in designated smoking areas.
The Navy is far from alone in experiencing problems with e-cigarettes. A man who suffered similar burns when an e-cigarette battery caught fire in his pocket at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal filed a lawsuit this week against the manufacturers of the device.
From 2009 to January 2016, the Food and Drug Administration recorded 134 incidents in the U.S. of e-cigarette batteries catching fire, exploding or overheating. The FDA will host a public workshop on safety concerns surrounding the devices next week.