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Are e-cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking?

Backers of electronic cigarettes hail them as a healthy alternative to traditional smoking. These advocates contend that the vapor is safe for inhalation.

If so, that would be a very good thing, because the adverse health effects of smoking are very well known.

But is the electronic device itself safe for use?

Some Americans say 'no' and allege that the e-cigarette trend is catching fire in more ways than one.

What is clear is that e-cigarette companies and their distributors are finding themselves embroiled in lawsuits across the nation.

Plaintiff claims e-cig exploded

E-cigarettes are at the center of close to a dozen lawsuits recently filed in California.

In one of the lawsuits the plaintiff alleges that his e-cig exploded in his pocket and burst into flames causing serious injury. He sustained burns to 75 percent of his genitals because of his electronic cigarette.

E-cigarette battery makers held liable for defect

The plaintiffs' attorneys say that the explosions are the result of defective manufacturing. A number of the suits claim that the lithium-ion batteries and the flammable e-cigarette liquid are a recipe for disaster. If the batteries reach a high enough temperature - such as when they are in a person's pocket - they can ignite.

A federal report found that 30 percent of e-cigarette explosions occurred when they were in someone's pocket.

Several of the lawsuits name the maker of the explosive batteries LG Chem, one of the top battery manufacturers in the world, as the defendant.

Federal enforcement action

The plaintiffs are hopeful that the lawsuits will prompt greater enforcement surrounding the regulation of the electronic devices. The Food and Drug Administration currently regulates e-cigarettes, but pending litigation is trying to challenge those regulations.

Product manufacturers have a duty to take reasonable action to ensure that a product is safe for use. When a manufacturer is negligent and breaches their duty, consumers have a right to take action against them.

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