NORFOLK, Va. (Navy Times) -- The vaping lamp is out throughout the fleet.
The Navy has banned electronic cigarettes and vaping devices throughout the fleet, citing concerns that the battery-powered gadgets can explode and injure sailors.
The new rule "suspends the use, possession, storage, and charging of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment,” according to a Navy press release Friday.
“The prohibition applies to Sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units.”
“This new policy is in response to continued reports of explosions of [electronic nicotine delivery devices] due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries,” the release said. “Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement.
“In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement, or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.”
The move was announced internally Friday in a joint message from Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The prohibition takes effect 30 days from the release of the new policy, or May 14. The ban means the devices must be completely removed from the fleet by the compliance date, but deployed units can ask for extra time to wait until the next port visit.
The Navy calls the ban a "suspension" while officials review safety concerns. It comes after the Naval Safety Center sounded the alarm in August about a sharp rise in injuries to sailors from exploding lithium ion batteries. The Safety Center recommended the ban in an Aug. 11, 2016 memo.
Between October 2015 and the present, the Safety Center has logged 31 incidents of sailors being injured by exploding batteries, some seriously, according to the Navy's statistics. Many of those incidents occurred on Navy ships and at least two required the use of shipboard firefighting equipment to extinguish fires. Many occurred while the e-cigarette was in a sailor’s pocket, resulting in first- and second-degree burns.
At least two sailors have had their e-cigarettes blow up in their mouths, resulting in facial and dental injuries.
It’s difficult to tell how many sailors use e-cigarettes. In recent testimony, the Air Force’s surgeon general told Congress that about five percent of airmen use the products.
E-cigarettes can explode and cause injuries when the battery overheats and expands, which can turn your vaping device into a mini-IED. The issue of overheating batteries has been one that E-Cigarette makers have tracked closely, with major companies such as the Richmond, Virginia,-based Altria taking steps to make their products more safe.
“Recent research shows that in about 80 percent of cases where the battery overheats come from when the device is charged incorrectly or was charged with a different charger than the manufacturer intended,” said an Altria official who spoke on background.
Altria is the parent company of tobacco giant Phillip Morris. The company’s e-cigarette manufacturer is called NuMark. NuMark’s e-cigarettes, including the Mark Ten, come with chargers with unique connectors that are the only way to charge the device, making it impossible to charge your device with, say, a cell phone charger that wasn’t designed for the task, the official said.
Altria was participating in an upcoming workshop with the Food and Drug Administration, which is looking into the battery issue and adding new ways to regulate the product and make them safer, the official said.
Queries to several other e-cigarette manufacturers were not returned by press time.