U.S. Navy sailors won’t be able to use electronic cigarettes on ships and planes after a series of incidents where the devices were responsible for explosions, injuries and fires.
The Navy announced the new policy Friday after tracking incidents tied to e-cigarettes that had taken place on Naval vessels. The service branch recommended the ban last year, according to the Navy Times, as safety concerns grew.
In a report, the Navy determined that when e-cigarettes’ lithium ion batteries get too hot, the seal around them fails and turns the device into a small bomb. Other common devices like cellphones and laptops have the same kind of battery, but they haven’t been shown to explode in the same manner. The Navy said that e-cigarette battery incidents could be caused by improper handling and charging of the electronic devices as well as poor material construction.
“The Naval Safety Center concludes that these devices pose a significant and unacceptable risk to Navy personnel, facilities, submarines, ships, vessels and aircraft,”
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Fifteen incidents involving e-cigarettes were recorded by the Navy between October 2015 and June 15, 2016. There was no record of incidents before that time. In two cases, people had the devices in their mouths when an explosion occurred, which caused facial and dental injuries. Two other incidents took place while the devices were in use.
Eight incidents took place on board a Naval vessel or aircraft, with one requiring an aircraft to return to base because an e-cigarette had spewed too much smoke in the cargo. Firefighting equipment was needed to extinguish the fires on two ships. Ten of the 15 incidents took place because of “improper stowage or transport” of the device, mostly in service members’ pockets. The malfunctions set fire to the person’s clothing and caused first and second degree burns.
The Navy ban will be put into effect May 14, but sailors currently at sea can ask for a grace period.
The policy is not permanent, and the Navy said it would conduct more analysis before making a final determination.