On this website, I’ve spent some time discussing the best e-cigarette for beginners. I’ve also discussed the best e-cigarettes on the market right now. I’ve even written a guide devoted exclusively to e-cigarette battery safety. Let’s suppose, though, that performance, design and possibly even price just aren’t that important to you. Let’s suppose that purchasing the safest e-cigarette is your only concern.
I recently helped to create a list of all the e-cigarette explosions that have appeared in the media worldwide. Let’s put that information to use. It’s never possible to guarantee that a lithium-ion battery won’t fail unexpectedly. It is possible, though, to eliminate the usage conditions that most commonly cause e-cigarette explosions. In doing so, we’ll identify the safest e-cigarette that meets your needs.
Disposable E-Cigarette: The Safest E-Cigarette of All
To date, I have found no confirmed report of a disposable e-cigarette exploding, in use or otherwise. There was one incident of potential concern shown on FOX 23 in Alabama in 2012. A woman claimed that a disposable e-cigarette exploded upon removal from the package. FOX 23’s report includes no pictures of the disposable e-cigarette that allegedly exploded, though. In fact, the report isn’t on the FOX 23 website anymore. You can only view it on Archive.org. As such, I consider the claim unverified.
Why are disposable e-cigarettes safe?
A disposable e-cigarette has a permanent cartridge, so you can’t recharge the battery. Since you can’t build your own atomizer for a disposable e-cigarette, there’s no possibility of building a coil with a short or using the battery with a load that it can’t handle. In fact, unless you abuse a disposable e-cigarette outright, there’s virtually no possibility of using one in a way that could cause the battery to explode.
The best disposable e-cigarette available, in my opinion, is the NJOY Daily. The NJOY Daily is more satisfying than other disposable e-cigarettes for three reasons. First, the NJOY Daily has a high nicotine concentration relative to other small e-cigarettes. Second, NJOY enhances the throat hit of the Daily with a small amount of lactic acid. Lastly, NJOY has developed a battery pulsing technology that allows the Daily to produce more vapor per puff than other e-cigarettes that are similar in size.
Taste is a very subjective thing. In my opinion, though, the NJOY Daily tastes far, far better than any other disposable e-cigarette. For me, it isn’t even a contest.
The Safest E-Cigarette Has a Drawback
So, the disposable e-cigarette is, without a doubt, the safest e-cigarette that money can buy. Why aren’t disposable e-cigarettes more popular, then? The cost is the primary deterrent. Since you’re buying a new battery each time you buy a disposable e-cigarette, it’s more expensive than other forms of vaping. With NJOY, though, the cost does go down if you buy in bulk — and NJOY doesn’t add shipping charges to domestic orders. NJOY also has a recycling program. Take advantage of it, and you’ll get a free Daily for every 14 that you recycle.
- Open the package and enjoy.
- Don’t puncture the battery or subject it to extreme heat.
The Safest E-Cigarette (Closed-System Vaping)
A closed-system e-cigarette is something along the lines of the V2 Cigs VERTX, the NJOY Convenience Vaping System or the JUUL e-cigarette. In anticipation of upcoming FDA regulations, many closed-system e-cigarettes currently in production use proprietary batteries that won’t work with third-party cartridges. That’s because, as the FDA’s rules currently stand, an e-cigarette will have less regulatory hurdles to clear if it has the fewest possible configurations in terms of flavors and nicotine strengths. Many small e-cigarettes are still thread-compatible with a variety of cartridges, though. Most of them were already in production before the FDA announced its regulations.
Why are closed-system e-cigarettes safe?
To date, I have found no confirmed report of a closed-system e-cigarette exploding during use. I have found some reports of closed-system e-cigarettes exploding during charging, though, and here’s where things start to get a little hazy. It seems as though e-cigarettes most commonly explode during charging because of incompatible charging equipment. A typical e-cigarette wall charger charges batteries with a current of 0.5-1.0 amps. A battery that requires a 0.5 amp current might encounter problems with a 2.4 amp mobile phone charger, for example. I have found no confirmed report of a closed-system e-cigarette exploding while charging with a manufacturer-supplied wall adapter.
What are you supposed to do, though, if you buy an e-cigarette that only includes a USB charger? Out of the 183 e-cigarette explosions that I have documented with eCigOne to date, about 7 percent involved an e-cigarette battery charging through a computer’s USB port. A computer’s USB port obviously shouldn’t make a rechargeable battery explode, though. So, were the batteries that exploded simply cheap and liable to fail either way? We don’t know. For maximum safety, examine the label on the USB charger included with your e-cigarette. You’ll see something that looks like this:
You can see from the sticker on the e-cigarette charger above that the charger expects 5 volt, 500 mA input power. So, if your preferred e-cigarette doesn’t come with a wall adapter, your safest bet is to buy a USB wall adapter with output power specifications exactly matching the input power specifications on your USB charger.
- Charge it with a manufacturer-supplied wall adapter, or use one that exactly matches the specifications on the USB charger’s label.
- Charge it only with a manufacturer-supplied USB charger even if you have another charger with threading that appears to match.
- Use it only with manufacturer-supplied cartridges or other attachments.
The Safest E-Cigarette (Open-System Vaping)
Open-system vaping devices pretty much cover include type of e-cigarette that I haven’t mentioned previously in this article. Some devices allow for adjustable power output, while some are purely mechanical mods. Some have fixed internal batteries, and others allow you to remove the batteries and charge them in an external charger. The one commonality among open-system vaping devices is that most of them work with whatever attachment you like, whether it’s an e-cigarette tank, a rebuildable atomizer or something else.
Open-system vaping gives you the greatest potential for customization and freedom. With customization, though, comes the potential for danger.
Why is open-system vaping sometimes unsafe?
- Many fixed-battery devices don’t include wall chargers, and USB charging standards are inconsistent.
- Some users are unaware that bare lithium-ion batters are dangerous if mishandled.
- If the device is a mechanical mod, it has no built-in safety protection. More on this below.
If a device has a built-in battery, then it also has the circuitry for charging the battery. A really nice standalone battery charger typically costs around $20. If your e-cigarette mod costs $50 at retail, how much of the manufacturing costs do you suppose went toward the battery charging circuitry? Can you feel confident about the device’s ability to handle the input current from a computer’s USB port — or the wrong type of wall adapter?
Don’t get me wrong. My current favorite e-cigarette at the time of writing — the VaporFi VOX 60 TC — has a fixed internal battery and charges via USB. I’m careful to use it only with a wall charger matching the specifications stated on the bottom of the device. In fact, I don’t presently use any e-cigarette with a removable battery, and my trusty Nitecore charger hasn’t seen any action in several months. If you own a fixed-battery device, though, the responsibility to charge it correctly is yours.
Making Open-System Vaping Safer
In my estimation, the safest e-cigarette for open-system vaping is a power-regulated mod with a removable battery. The mod should have built-in safety functions that prevent you from using the device if the voltage of the battery is too high or too low. The mod should alert you if you have installed the battery incorrectly. It should also have over-current protection, short circuit protection and temperature protection. Finally, it should have ample ventilation — because even if you do everything right, every lithium-ion battery has a very small chance of failure. A device with a removable battery, though, at least gives you the ability to use the battery of your choice and charge it with the best charger that you can afford.
I have found several reports of open-system e-cigarettes with fixed internal batteries exploding during charging. I believe — although not with complete certainty — that this has probably only happened with devices that were charged through incompatible wall chargers or computer USB ports. With a dedicated battery charger, though, you’ll know that your batteries will always charge as they should. I have found only one report of a removable e-cigarette battery that exploded in a dedicated charger. It’s a forum post, but it appears genuine.
E-Cigarette Safety by the Numbers
At the time of writing, approximately 40 percent of the e-cigarette battery explosions that have ever appeared in the media happened during charging. None of those incidents, though, occurred with removable cells in dedicated chargers. If you purchase high-quality cells and charge them in a dedicated charger, you’ll eliminate virtually any chance of an explosion.
More crucially, you’ll eliminate the 29 percent of explosions that happened during use if you use a device with comprehensive safety features. I have found no confirmed report of a power-regulated e-cigarette exploding during use.
However, approximately 13 percent of reported explosions happened because people were carrying spare batteries in their pockets. So, if you’re going to use an e-cigarette with a removable battery, you’ll need to bear the responsibility of proper battery handling. You’ll need to carry your batteries in dedicated cases, recycle or re-wrap batteries with damaged wrappers and keep track of how many charge cycles they’ve gone through.
E-Cigarettes and Safety Liability
It is important to note that the majority of the world’s e-cigarettes, batteries and other accessories originate from China. It’s completely logical that this would be the case. Most consumer electronics come from China, and the e-cigarette’s inventor was a Chinese pharmacist.
Who shoulders the legal burden, though, if an electronic product made in China is unsafe? Gucci tried unsuccessfully for four years to sue Chinese makers of knock-off handbags. If a company worth more than $10 billion can’t serve a lawsuit to a Chinese company, your local product liability attorney probably can’t do much better.
In some states, everyone in the chain of distribution is potentially liable for a dangerously defective product. Some attorneys have sued the American sellers of e-cigarettes that have exploded, since Chinese companies have proven virtually untouchable. Some pretty large judgments have resulted, too. If your local vape shop happens to sell you a cheap Chinese mod that explodes, though, they’re probably not going to have the means to pay a $1.9 million award.
The Safest E-Cigarette Company?
There is some logic to buying an e-cigarette with a chain of liability that never leaves your home country. I know of only one USA-made product line that has both the performance and all of the safety features that virtually any e-cigarette user could want, and that’s the ProVari line. I’d like to think that the people at ProVape invest themselves personally in building the safest products possible. Since ProVape is a domestic company though, I know that they also invest themselves professionally. They have to. A dangerously defective product could ruin them.
Alternatively, I’d suggest buying from a company with the size and financial security to thoroughly test its products and bear the responsibility if something goes wrong. The VaporFi VOX 60 TC and Volcano Lavabox are two products that I believe fall into that category. They aren’t USA-made, but they’re beautiful and very feature-rich while costing a bit less than the most advanced ProVari models.
- Consider buying a mod with a removable battery, so you can use the battery and charger of your choice.
- Exercise proper battery safety at all times.
- Use a mod with a comprehensive set of safety features.
- Consider buying a mod made in your home country.
The Most Dangerous E-Cigarette
They’re tiny, inexpensive and often quite beautiful. All of the battery’s power goes to the atomizer — not the integrated circuits — so they chuck clouds like nobody’s business. They have no pesky screens to warn you when you’ve created an atomizer coil that could over-stress the battery. They’re also the source of approximately 29 percent of the e-cigarette explosions reported in the media to date — and almost all of the explosions that had truly horrific results.
I’m talking, of course, about mechanical mods. Mechanical mods are proof that lithium-ion batteries are remarkably safe for the amount of power they store — even when their owners abuse them a bit. Nevertheless, mechanical mods are the most dangerous e-cigarettes on the market by far.
Why are mechanical mods unsafe?
Think about all of the situations in which a regulated mod would automatically stop working:
- Battery voltage too high or too low
- Battery amperage limit exceeded
- Short circuit resulting from an atomizer problem, a damaged battery or contamination such as water or dust
- Device temperature too high or too low
- Incorrect battery orientation
In all of these situations, a regulated mod should fail gracefully, display an error message and not attempt to fire the atomizer. A mechanical mod, though, is nothing but a battery tube with contact points for the atomizer and fire button. If you push the button, it’s going to complete a circuit. What happens next depends upon the battery’s ability to handle stress.
A mechanical mod is most dangerous with a rebuildable atomizer. That’s the configuration many people prefer, since nothing drives a rebuildable atomizer as well as a mechanical mod. Now, maybe you’ve practiced and gotten to the point where you can wrap a coil that looks just as perfect as a machine-made coil. I suspect, though, that most RBA coils look a bit like these:
Now, think about all of the potential things that could go wrong with these coils. They’re uneven. Flimsy screws hold them in place. There’s almost no space separating them from other metal parts. When they’re not in use, they might be in someone’s pocket where they’re jostled constantly. If they’re used with mechanical mods, they’re used with devices that have no capacity to warn the user when conditions are unsafe. If mechanical mods are the world’s most dangerous e-cigarettes, mechanical mods with rebuildable atomizers are even more so.
- Exercise proper battery safety at all times.
- Use a mechanical mod with ample venting.
- Don’t build your own coils.
- Consider using a fuse such as VapeSafe. If the coil that you want to use would trip a fuse, use it with a regulated mod instead.