Battery Failures: Is it Really the Vapers Fault?
I felt the need to write today after seeing a flurry of activity again around battery safety and the extremely rare instance when a battery fails or vents causing harm to the user. The same re-hashed battery failures in electronic cigarettes seem to pop up on a semi-regular basis even though it is an uncommon occurrence. Like any battery powered device the possibility of a battery “exploding” is always there. One only has to search about hover boards or cell phones to understand these instances can happen in any battery powered device.
However one thing that caught my attention (and troubled me a little) was how many vapers were quick to blame the user, often regardless of the circumstance. It’s an understandable reaction. I would ask though, could it be a bit shortsighted? The concept of “user error” is certainly valid, but in many ways sometimes the criticism levied against those unfortunate enough to experience a failure seemed misplaced. It seems far too easy to simply brush off this serious topic by simply saying “The user screwed up, move on”. When something like this happens, I think it would benefit us all to have a reasoned approach to evaluating the situation and certainly focus on solutions so it doesn’t happen again.
I think it’s important to keep a reasonable perspective, or even distance, from the emotional reactions we get as vapers when battery failures are highlighted in the media. By concentrating on the reason for the failure and not the blame I think it can help bring things into focus. I ask myself two questions:
- Did the device break or was there a design flaw that caused the battery failure?
- Did the user do something that contributed to the battery failure?
While this certainly can provide some high level clarity, I think this is where most of us stop our reasoning and assign blame. In some cases knowing the answers above may be enough. Consider the user who does not use a battery case, and keeps their extra batteries loose in their pocket with change and keys (a key reason for battery failures). This practice is not safe with any battery, and blame can certainly be assigned to the user.
However, I also think this is where we can also easily slip into become shortsighted. Knowing the answers above a good start, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Consider the following:
John wants to begin vaping. He is a new vaper and has no awareness that there is a huge vaping community, or that there are multiple resources at his disposal through social media. He goes online and orders a mod with a hybrid connection and a tank to go with it. They looked good to him and were readily available.
When he puts this combination together and the battery vents, is it his fault? Is he to blame? Go back to our questions above. There is an argument to be made that both questions are answered by yes. So, do we blame John, or the device?
Option 1: It’s John’s Fault, He Should Have Known Not to Put Those Together
Is it reasonable for John to assume that he would have to become a member of our vaping community, join social media groups, subscribe to YouTube, and follow vapers on Twitter to ensure when he used his new mod/tank combination it wouldn’t explode? Yes! Battery failures would go way down!
If you are going to vape today, you need to do complete research on what you are doing or join a vaping club/social network. Just in the same way any shopper today should be expected to do research or join a toaster social group to learn whether the toaster they plug in will explode when put in the proper electrical socket. Even if it goes together like it was specifically designed to fit, you need to research those things and become educated. It’s your personal responsibility.
Option 2: It’s the Device/Manufacturers Fault and a Poor Design
Is it reasonable for manufacturers to ensure their design is as safe as possible, and correct any known problems? Yes! Should manufacturers of vaping products be held to common manufacturing standards? Yes! Regardless of the industry, today it is widely accepted there are common manufacturing processes and standards that should address product safety. For example automotive/electronics/(and yes even Pharmaceutical) companies spend countless hours designing safety measures into their products, and performing recalls when things go wrong. Vaping manufacturers should be no different. John should be confident that if it was designed to go together (i.e. the plug fits), it shouldn’t blow up.
So Which is the Right Option?
I think you can tell I wrote the first option with a bit of bias and maybe a little “tongue in cheek”. But honestly, when I read the recent discussions I mentioned at the top of this post that’s how many vapers came off. I don’t want to condemn anyone and say that is what they believe. However, when we blame “user error” or “lack of knowledge” we may be coming off that way to both non-hobbyist and more specifically non vapers. There is a difference between a person having responsibility for their own safety (personal responsibility), and trust in societal norms such as common and good manufacturing processes. Asking buyers to assume all personal responsibility isn’t realistic. Standards should be in place so that two items when screwed together shouldn’t explode.
So which is right? I personally think a very strong dose of option two, with a dash of one is probably the best answer.
As vapers, we need to acknowledge that not everyone is a hobbyist. Somewhere along the line some of us may have blurred the distinction between “hobbyist vaping” and vaping for tobacco harm reduction (a substitute for smoking). Not everyone now, and especially into the future, is going to, or even interested in, learning everything about vaping, safety, and yes batteries. They just want a safer alternative to smoking. Just like with their cell phone they just want to make a call, with their e-cig they just want to vape. Our industry needs to grow up a little, and realize that common sense manufacturing standards, labeling and instructions aren’t going to kill hobbyist vaping, but… blaming the vaper when it all goes wrong might. But, life in general always requires a dash of personal responsibility. If it is clearly understood AND communicated by the manufacturer what could happen if used improperly it’s upon the consumer as well to heed that advice.
Vape Loud, Vape Proud!