Orange County Man Loses Eye in E-Cig Explosion

"And then bam! I heard a loud noise, and I felt like I'd been hit with a baseball bat or a hockey stick."

A man who lost his left eye last month when the battery in an e-cigarette exploded next to him, rocketing debris at his head, is demanding that more be done to regulate the smoking instrument.

He is speaking out on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Food and Drug Administration will begin reviewing hundreds of e-cigarette brands.

"I felt like I'd been hit with a baseball bat or a hockey stick," said Joe Cavins, a longtime smoker turned e-cigarette user. 

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Some believe e-cigarette users tend to inhale fewer chemicals and tarthan when tobacco is burned. There is still no agreement in scientific data on the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes, but Cavins discovered a major problem on April 15.

Cavins says he was smoking an e-cigarette while working at his home office in Irvine and placed it down on his desk.

It exploded, shooting debris toward his head. It bounced off the ceiling, starting a fire on his computer, he said.

Courtesy Greg Bentley

"If I would have had that in my hand or up in my mouth when it went off — I mean my God," Cavins said. "I'm grateful it wasn't worse."


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The debris smashed his orbital and sinus bones. There are pieces of shrapnel left in his eyeball, he said.

Others have been hurt in e-cigarette explosions as well. In February, a man in San Diego was taken to a hospital with burns on his leg caused by one such explosion.

The FDA last week said it would oversee the amount of nicotine that goes into the devices and would regulate some of the batteries used.

But Cavins' attorney, Greg Bentley, says it isn't enough.

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The regulation announcement also came as Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 in California on Wednesday. No one under 21 would be allowed to buy tobacco products for smoking, chewing or vaping. Brown also considered bills regulating e-cigarettes, allowing local government to set tobacco taxes, and more.

Cavins said he has more surgeries ahead of him.

Though doctors saved some of the muscles in his eye, he'll never get his sight back.

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