26 Nov 2022

Warning issued after young people seen using DIY vape charging method

2:33 pm on 26 November 2022
Closeup detail of Female with an Electronic Cigarette, Horizontal shot

File image. Photo: 123RF

Master Electricians is warning that young people using a DIY method to recharge disposable vaping devices risk them exploding in their hands.

A Taranaki school has this week warned parents to be on the look out for the practice.

"We have a very small number of young people in our community that are finding old vapes that have run out of battery power, they're opening them up, exposing the vape battery, and recharging the battery to get them going again."

"It's very ingenious, but also very dangerous," the email said of the jerry-rigged charging method without going into details of what could potentially go wrong

Master Electricians chief executive Bernie McLaughlin was very concerned about the practice - which RNZ has decided not to describe in detail.

"My first reaction is what these people are doing is actually circumventing a lot of the safety systems built into the products and by doing what they are doing they are really putting themselves a risk of a lithium battery exploding in their hands.

"Lithium is actually quite a volatile once it ignites and to try and charge these things up with a charging methodology that isn't anywhere near what industry would say is safe, it does really worry me.

"We've seen it many times and it doesn't matter whether it's a car or an e-scooter or something as small an e-cigarette, the fact is lithium is a very volatile product and once it ignites it's very difficult to extinguish."

Using a charging cable without shorting safety features meant it could explode or overheat and melt, but the real danger was overcharging the batteries, McLaughlin said.

"We've seen particularly in the early days particularly with e-cigarettes they literally explode and we're talking serious burns to people's legs or arms if they explode in someone's pocket, so that's probably the biggest danger - the lithium itself."

It was the first time he had heard about the practice, but it did not surprise him that enterprising individuals were looking at ways to reuse disposable items, McLaughlin said.

"The worry is the fact that these items are being charged in a manner which is not really specified by the manufacturer, so although it's enterprising it is potentially very dangerous."

McLaughlin would not recommend anyone open up a device that was not designed to be serviced whether it be a vape or a home appliance.

"With electricity, it's a pretty unforgiving master and it can really come back and bite you."

He had a warning for families.

"If a parent finds a charger that's been damaged in any way, it's just not worth leaving them lying around and the best option is to make sure it's unplugged and then make it unusable by cutting off the lead permanently and disposing of it.

"And certainly if you find an e-cigarette that isn't designed for multiple use and it looks like it's been recharged in a non-compliant manner, I'd certainly suggest disposing of that in an appropriate manner as well."

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