published Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

New York hospital reinforces its ban after e-cigarette fire, injury

A smoker demonstrates an e-cigarette.
A smoker demonstrates an e-cigarette.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A New York hospital is reinforcing its ban on electronic cigarettes after a patient on oxygen was burned by a fire that erupted while she was puffing on one of the devices.

Syracuse Fire Department officials say the exact cause of last month's fire at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center has not yet been determined. However, hospital officials say the patient had a battery-powered e-cigarette, which uses a heating element to vaporize nicotine.

Hospital officials say the victim, who has not been identified, suffered first- and second-degree burns across her face, but is home and doing well.

St. Joseph's has had a policy that prohibits tobacco and tobacco product use inside its buildings for several years, according to hospital spokeswoman Vicki VanSlyke. The policy was recently amended to prohibit tobacco products on hospital grounds. E-cigarettes were not specifically identified in the policy but are now, VanSlyke said.

The e-cigarette industry started on the Internet and at shopping-mall kiosks. It has rocketed from thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide who can choose from more than 200 brands.

Smokers nationwide are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes to get their nicotine fix, and the Food and Drug Administration will propose rules for e-cigarettes as early as this month.

There have been several reports of e-cigarette-related fires involving various name brands across the country.

Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Georgia-based Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, a nonprofit that promotes the industry, said clients are advised to "make sure the charger is matched to the product purchased and to never have one next to something flammable."

"With any battery, there will be incidents of failure, no matter the technology," Kiklas said Tuesday.

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