Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vaporizers, have become a popular alternative to regular cigarettes. Even non-cigarette smokers are getting in on the trend, enjoying the fact that e-cigs are allowed indoors in many public locations, provide a variety of flavors options, and are reportedly “safer” than regular cigarettes. For these reasons, they are also popular among cruise passengers. But how safe are electronic cigarettes, really? And how likely are they to cause cruise ship injuries? Our maritime attorneys explore the possibilities.
Smoking On Cruise Ships
A few years ago, cruise passengers were able to smoke relatively liberally on some vessels. Unless a ship was specifically designated as a “non-smoking” vessel, there weren’t too many restrictions that passengers could face if they felt the urge to smoke a cigarette. However, smoking laws on cruise ships have changed in recent times partly for safety reasons and partly to accommodate for non-smoking passengers. There are now designated smoking areas throughout a ship and passengers are limited to these areas only. But what about e-cigarettes?
Most cruise ships treat e-cigarettes the same way as regular cigarettes or cigars. They can only be used in designated smoking locations. Even though the smell of these e-cigs may not be as bothersome to other travelers, they can still pose a risk of accidents and injuries – sometimes, even more than regular cigarettes can.
The Danger of E-Cigarettes and the Risk of Cruise Ship Injuries
Electronic cigarettes are operated by batteries – batteries which can overheat or malfunction. There have already been several reported cases of serious accidents involving e-cigarettes, some of which resulted in life-threatening injuries. The most common cause of these injuries was attributed to e-cig explosion. Back in September 2015, a 23-year-old Alabama man was hospitalized after suffering extensive burns and fractures when an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth. Then, just a few months later, a 29-year-old Memphis man was nearly paralyzed following an e-cig explosion which left him with a broken neck, among other serious injuries.
Numerous incidents in which electronic cigarettes have exploded have been documented. These explosions can lead to fires and cause severe burns (or worse) to users. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 80% of e-cigarette explosions happen during charging. Many electronic cigarette explosions also occur because the wrong type of battery was used. E-cig batteries come in different voltage capacities, and using too high a voltage for a particular cartridge can cause a spark and ultimate explosion. Other reasons behind e-cigarette battery accidents include overheating, manufacturing flaws, equipment defects, and using a power adapter or charger that was not originally intended for the device.
Given the number of e-cigarette related accidents, it is quite possible that these devices can cause cruise ship injuries not only to those directly using the vaporizers, but to anyone who happens to be near an e-cig if it happens to explode. Furthermore, if the explosion happens inside a passenger cabin, a fire might erupt, causing extensive damage to the vessel and placing countless lives at risk of injury or even death.
Should Cruise Ships Ban Electronic Cigarettes?
Because of their potential to cause cruise ship injuries and accidents, should cruise lines go as far as to ban passengers from bringing these devices on board? That’s a tough question to answer. Even though passenger safety should always be prioritized, the number of e-cig explosions remains relatively small. Many other products that are flammable, such as aerosol cans of hair spray or disinfectant, are still allowed on most ships, so banning e-cigarettes on the grounds of flammability could lead to a domino effect in which several other products become banned.
For now, the best thing to do if you plan on traveling with an electronic cigarette on a ship is to abide by the cruise ship’s policies and use these devices in designated smoking areas only. Turn the devices off while charging and be sure to only use appropriate batteries and charging equipment.