Alberta e-cigarette explosion ignites regulation debate

Ty Greer received treatment for first and second-degree burns and had to undergo two root canals to fix broken teeth after an e-cigarette explosion. Could the incident have been prevented by further regulation for the new products?

Should there be more regulations on e-cigarettes in Alberta?

Ty Greer, 16, of Lethbridge, Alta., is shown in this handout image provided by his father Perry Greer. Greer says his son was using the device in a car last week in Lethbridge when an e-cigarette exploded. (Canadian Press)

Earlier this week Ty Greer, a 16-year-old Lethbridge teen, was riding in a car with his family when he decided to take a puff from his e-cigarette. 

Perry Greer, Ty's father, explained to CBC that his son was using the device correctly, pushed in the button of his Wotofo Phantom, blew in, and puffed from it.

Greer said that's when the device exploded about two inches from son's face, leaving him with horrific burns. 

Ty received treatment for first and second-degree burns and had to undergo two root canals to fix broken teeth. 

"It lit my kid's face on fire, busted two teeth out," Greer said Wednesday.

"It burned the back of his throat, burned his tongue very badly. If he wasn't wearing glasses, he possibly could have lost his eyes."

"He wanted to die. That is how much pain he was in."

Is the answer more regulation?

This incident has re-ignited the debate about the regulation of e-cigarettes.

Les Hagen, the executive director of Action on Smoking & Health, says that incidents like this are directly related to the lack of federal and provincial product standards. 

"This terrible incident is a wake-up call to the government that we need to be putting further controls on these products," Hagen told Edmonton AM backfill host Trisha Estabrooks. 

"There are no national or provincial product standards on e-cigarettes and that's one of the reasons that we have products in the market exploding." 

"From my perspective, this lad shouldn't have had an e-cigarette to begin with. The retailer shouldn't have sold or be allowed to sell," he added. 

A vaporizer exploded in a teenager's face now a concerned group is hoping to ban the sale of E-Cigarettes to minors. 8:06

Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only provinces in the country yet to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Alberta instead leaves the decision to municipalities. 

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said there is a currently a federal-provincial working group that is actively looking into the safety of e-cigarettes.

Steven Young, spokesman for the United Vaping Retailers Association of Alberta, painted a different picture of what happened to Greer.

He believes user error may have caused the e-cigarette to explode. 

"Is there is a potential for users to cross-thread different parts from different devices?" Young said. 

"Like on the back of every electronic toy package, where's that big warning device when you're putting in a battery, there is a potential for things going wrong, and when you use something incorrectly, the potential [for injury] is there." 

A man smokes an electronic cigarette vaporizer, also known as an e-cigarette. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Is self regulation enough?

Young says the shops that make up the United Vaping Retailers Association of Alberta are self-regulated. He says they already don't sell e-cigarettes to minors, and they follow a set rule of standards that dictates what they will sell at their stores. 

He also said that if people purchase products from the internet they can bring it into one of their shops and receive instructions on how to use the e-cigarette correctly. 

"That training is so important," said Young. 

"Many people that actually get the device from the internet will end up in our stores, and we spend that time with them explaining to them what to do, or more importantly, as in this case, what not to do. "

Perry Greer is calling on the Alberta government to regulate this product in hopes of ensuring that what happened to his son won't happen to anyone else. 

"I would like to see these unregulated ones possibly banned," he said. "It is horrific to see your kid with his face so burnt."

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