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E-cigarette related fires expected to rise

At a glance

  • E-cigarettes have been linked to a number of fires
  • The use of incompatible chargers can cause batteries to overheat, and sometimes explode
  • Brokers are encouraged to pass along sensible precautions to their customers to mitigate these risks

The increase in popularity of e-cigarettes has provoked much discussion, covering issues such as their long-term health effects, use in the workplace, and calls for enhanced regulations on their packaging and advertising.

Following a number of high profile blazes, the associated fire risks of e-cigarettes are also now firmly in the spotlight. Brokers and their customers need to understand these risks, and be aware of what sensible precautions to take when using this relatively new technology.

Tips on e-cigarette charging

  • Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully
  • Take notice of any warnings supplied with the product
  • Ensure that e-cigarettes are not left charging for long periods of time
  • Do not leave e-cigarettes plugged in overnight or when you are out of the house
  • Look for the ‘CE’ mark that indicates chargers comply with European safety standards
  • Do not overload plug sockets
  • Check that your electrical products have not been recalled
  • Avoid buying counterfeit or substandard goods
  • Switch off appliances at the socket when not in use

Source: Gov.co.uk

In August 2014, a Merseyside resident died in an explosion, believed to have been caused by the charging of his e-cigarette. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. In 2012, fire and rescue services in England and Wales were called to eight incidents relating to e-cigarettes. By 2013, this figure had increased to 43, and the latest statistics show that there have been more than 60 incidents reported so far this year.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, has warned that the number of incidents is likely to rise as more smokers continue to switch to e-cigarettes.

The risk of using incompatible chargers

E-cigarettes are electronic and must be charged, just as you would a mobile phone. It is this charging process that has been identified as a frequent cause of e-cigarette related fires.

Fire chiefs say many blazes occur when incompatible chargers are used or when charging the units for prolonged periods of time. Often, incompatible chargers do not regulate and control power in the correct way. This can result in too much current entering the battery, causing it to overheat, and sometimes explode.

Patrick O’Gorman, Property Claims Manager at Zurich, says: “E-cigarettes are a relatively unregulated product. Many of these products can accept different devices for charging them, which can lead people to make purchases they perhaps should not. Buying an incompatible charger can save a few pounds, but it may cost you in damage to your property, and potentially put you and your family at risk.

Fire chiefs say many blazes occur when incompatible chargers are used or when charging the units for prolonged periods of time

“In terms of how Zurich will respond to a fire, there is no question in terms of cover. Fire is an insured peril under all of our household products, and we will respond to our customers’ needs if a loss occurs. However, customers need to be aware of the potential risks in the charging process of these products, and brokers can help by passing on some sensible precautions.”

The Government recently launched a number of measures to boost the safety of e-cigarettes in response to the increasing number of related incidents. This includes tips on the charging of electronic cigarettes, which brokers are encouraged to read and communicate to their customers.

Image © Getty

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