A Nevada mother who bought a vape pen to help her 17-year-old son quit smoking ended up having to drive him five hours to a hospital after it blew up in his face, doctors say. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors say the exploding e-cigarette, made by a company called VGOD, shattered Austin Adams' jaw and knocked out several teeth. His mother drove him from Ely, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah, which had the nearest hospital that could deal with the injury. Report author Dr. Katie Russell, one of the surgeons who treated Austin, says he had a blast injury to his jaw, damage to his gums, and burns in his lower lip. The explosion was "totally unexpected," she tells NBC. "He didn't recall doing anything wrong with the device beforehand, and it just exploded."
The FDA warned in 2017 that the shape of e-cigarettes can make them behave like "flaming rockets" when their lithium-ion batteries fail. A study last year found that vaping devices caused 2,035 emergency room visits between 2015 and 2017. "This technology hit the market by storm and people are not aware," Russell tells the New York Times. "But the fact is they can burn you. They can explode in your pocket. They can explode in your face. I think there’s a health concern." Researchers say the batteries can overheat when there is a short circuit, or when they are in contact with metal objects like keys. Austin, who had his jaw wired shut for six weeks, has now made a full recovery—and has given up both smoking and vaping. (This school district has drastic plans to curb vaping.)