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At-home oxygen plus vaping can lead to burns, explosions, even death

In a world where electronic cigarettes are considered a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, researchers have uncovered a new danger associated with vaping: the risk of igniting supplemental oxygen. Steven Kahn, chief of burn surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, and his colleagues reviewed National Burn Repository data and lay press articles and found that vaping in the presence of supplemental oxygen can ignite the oxygen, leading to burns, fire, or explosion, even without any malfunction.

Kahn and his team discovered that while most injuries from electronic cigarettes occur due to thermal runaway, where the battery overheats and explodes, the design of electronic cigarettes alone can also cause fires. The devices contain a heating coil that operates at temperatures of 300 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and when the user takes a “pull” from the device, the heated coil atomizes the liquid in a cartridge to form a vapor that can be inhaled. This high heat source combined with a high flow of oxygen can cause ignition, even without thermal runaway.

While the number of reported injuries is currently small, there is no medical diagnostic code for burn injury sustained by vaping while on supplemental oxygen, making it difficult to assess the true frequency of these injuries. Kahn calls for health care providers to educate their patients about this risk, especially for those with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who are on oxygen and want to quit smoking by switching to vaping.

Kahn is advocating for an ICD-10 code for this type of injury and public health outreach to raise awareness of the potential threat in other settings with high oxygen levels, such as industrial environments. With a reported 8 million electronic cigarette users and 15 million home oxygen users, the risk of overlap is high. Kahn wants everyone to know that electronic cigarettes and supplemental oxygen simply do not mix.

While this news may come as a shock to those who believed electronic cigarettes were a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, it’s not all bad news. There are still many other ways to quit smoking, such as nicotine patches or gum, hypnotherapy, and even acupuncture. And for those who are struggling to quit, humor can be a powerful tool. After all, laughter is the best medicine, right? So let’s take a moment to poke some fun at the situation and laugh off the dangers of electronic cigarettes and supplemental oxygen.

Here are a few jokes to get us started:

While these jokes may be silly, the risk of injury from vaping while on supplemental oxygen is serious. So let’s take a moment to raise awareness, educate ourselves and others, and find safer alternatives to help us quit smoking for good.

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