The victim, Ty Greer, 16, was using the device in a car last week in Lethbridge when the e-cigarette exploded.
“It lit my kid’s face on fire, busted two teeth out,” Perry Greer, Ty’s father 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.”
Greer said the family raced Ty to hospital. He remembers hugging his son as he squirmed in agony waiting for a dose of morphine to kick in.
“He wanted to die. That is how much pain he was in.”
Greer doesn’t know why the device exploded.
“He pushed the button and blew in, and then you wait a couple of seconds, and then you puff on it. It was about two inches from his mouth and it just blew apart.”
Greer said his son has been treated for first- and second-degree burns.
Photos of Ty in the hospital show the skin around his mouth and cheeks blackened and bleeding. He’s received two root canals since the incident.
Greer said the model of electronic cigarette his son bought on his own is as large as a cigar and is popular because of the amount of vapour it produces.
The defective vape was a Wotofo Phantom, which is produced in China. Online reviews of the product on the marketplace Eciggity were mostly positive with no indication of such defects.
In a statement to Mic by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, the industry shot back at the implication that e-cigarettes are dangerous.
The manufacturer and its Canadian distributor were not immediately available for comment.
Greer said governments should not allow minors to buy such devices.
“I would like to see these unregulated ones possibly banned,” Greer said. “It is horrific to see your kid with his face so burnt.”
According to the Non-Smokers Rights Association, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only provinces that have not banned the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. The decision is left to municipalities in Alberta.
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the province has formed a working group with the federal government and is looking at regulating e-cigarettes.
Les Hagen of the Edmonton-based charity Action on Smoking and Health said what happened to Ty Greer is another reason why e-cigarettes need to be regulated federally and provincially.
“We absolutely need product standards. For instance, they shouldn’t explode in your mouth,” Hagen said.
“The other element with this particular incident is this product was sold to a minor, to a 16-year-old. We would like to see a ban on the sale of these products to minors, just like we have with cigarettes.”
The Federal Standing Committee on Health last March issued a report that suggests funding independent research into the health effects of electronic cigarettes and the need to regulate them.
The report calls for rules that would forbid their sale to anyone under 18.
Hagen said the federal government has yet to respond to the report.
Ty’s uncle, Walter Zimmer said it is time for action.
“They are dangerous,” he said. “This young guy is going to be scarred for life.”
This young lad is never going to touch another e-Cigarette again!