The first report of this story broke in the Wigan Evening Post where the article was accompanied by a picture of the sad Newton family in a burnt-out room. Dylan, Millie-Anne, Lauren and Mrs Victoria Newton still managing to look shocked at what has transpired…except that they live in a semi-detached house rendered unsuitable for accommodation following on from Victoria’s inability to use the correct charger for her electronic cigarette.
The first thing we can take from this story is that the media cares more for a sensationalist headline and images of misery than the actual truth. It matters little that the events are dissimilar, the products different and that those concerned have never met each other – the only important thing for the Wigan Today Group was to compound the misery of the story.
Fire service Station Manager Ben Levy, who was in charge of the incident, said: “The gentleman was sitting on his sofa in his shorts smoking his e-cigarette.” As this article is penned for vapers I can feel the collective wince at the word ‘smoking’ from here.
Ben Levy continues: “The e-cig became very hot and he threw it on the floor. It then exploded and a piece of metal went through the man’s leg, put a hole in a door and ricocheted off a wall. Another section of the e-cig wounded his other leg in the explosion.”
One neighbour, Billy Baldwin said: “I’m so shocked to think that such a small device designed to help you could cause so much injury.”
Clearly, Billy has not seen the size of a 26650-battery mod.
Shortly afterwards, the injured man, David Aspinall, was visited by Paul Keaveny, representing The Sun. People have speculated on what motivation Mr Aspinall would have to talk to a journalist from News International but there is no evidence to substantiate claims of payment. Aspinall has declared his intention to sue the Chinese manufacturers of the mod.
Keaveny’s hyperbole-laced article then appeared in The Sun using words like ‘grenade’ and suggesting that Aspinall’s legs were almost “blown off”. Photographs illustrate that there were four main wound points and no likelihood of the loss of a leg. Those familiar with The Sun know that they play fast and loose with actual events. The article misrepresented comments made by the vendor of the mod in order to form an agenda-ridden coverage.
The rewrite featured in The Telegraph later on Monday stuck closer to the facts but continued with the one-line assertion that the vendor blamed the wrong type of batteries for the outcome. The vendor had invited Keaveny into the vaping lounge to discuss the event, the customer and be instructed about battery science and safety but declined.
Following an interview with Wayne Harvey, owner of Little Puffer’s Vaping Lounge, it transpires that Aspinall was not new to vaping and had history of using mech mods, making his own juice and coiling his own atomisers.
The clone had been purchased a couple of months ago and is a version with 2 vent holes near the switch. When the mod was purchased Aspinall was advised what make of 26650 battery to purchase and where to get it from. He chose to ignore the advice and bought a version claiming to be an Efest battery from eBay.
Aspinall was frequently seen using the mod with one of his two large Kayfun-style clones. Both of these atomisers had short 510 connections and Aspinall showed how he had sanded down the insulation on the mod so that he could achieve a connection. The last build he showed off involved using 0.5 Kanthal wire indicating a low ohm build.
Aspinall had also received advice on not over-discharging batteries (as he’d previously run two down to less than 2V) and not coiling super low-ohm builds.
Katherine Devlin, President of UK trade body ECITA, addressed the subject of advice vendors can give: “We are currently working on some generic information/advice for vendors to supply to their consumers. We intend to publish this on our blog, as well as ensuring our members have it.”
Wayne Harvey is proud of the fact that he would rather lose custom than sell items to people who might injure themselves or others…especially those seeking to jump right in to sub-ohm builds and big clouds: “The amount of customers I refuse to sell mods to is ridiculous”, he says, “I always tell them to go away and research, I would say that 60% come back but others probably go to eBay.”
The reported heat produced in the mod, causing Aspinall to drop it, indicates that an electrical short occurred. It is unclear whether the removed insulation, the coil build or the battery condition/type were to blame. Despite claims from owners of genuine and cloned Mutants, this mod (like the one in the States) failed to vent the gases produced by the battery.
As the gas is vented from the positive end of the battery and the vent holes are placed at the negative end it suggests that as the battery expanded, as can frequently happen during venting, it prevented the gases from exiting.
A solution used by other customers of Little Puffer has been to invert the battery in the mod housing, thereby placing the positive terminal next to the vent holes, it is unclear if Aspinall was aware of this. There have been no published incidents of this happening with genuine Mutants made by Fall Out Mods. But then Fall Out Mods have considered this eventuality and tested their design to ensure it doesn’t happen.
This has the potential to occur in any mechanical mod where the tolerances are tight between the tube and battery walls and the vent holes are located away from the positive battery pole. The venting in the clone has not been designed; the initial copy had no vent holes at all and the inclusion of two holes in later versions is an after-thought – one that has now failed twice in a dramatic fashion.
Katherine Devlin continues: “It is a matter of the utmost concern that it appears to be the case that many of the mech mods are designed with inadequate venting provision, and many have vents of insufficient size located at the wrong end of where the battery may vent.”
So, once more, the vaping story making its way into the public conscience is a negative one. The story may have been tinged with potential irresponsibility but the cause is a mod that should have been safe in use regardless of battery failure. It is this public failure that attracts media attention and public condemnation. Do we accept this as part and parcel of vaping or is it time for a change in thinking?