VERBENA, AL (WSFA) - An Alabama man who recently switched from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes found himself suffering serious injuries over the weekend when the device exploded in his pocket "like a grenade".
Jason Kromer, 33, gave up cigarettes six months ago for an alternative. He said he hadn't had any problems with his e-cigarette until the weekend. He was about to sit down to eat breakfast at a friend's house Saturday morning when suddenly, he found his leg covered in flames.
"At first, I wasn't sure what was happening," he explained. "All I know is I was standing there fine one second and the next I was on fire."
Kromer's friend's young daughter and son, 12 and 9, witnessed the incident. Kromer beat out the flames before going to an area hospital for treatment.
"It was blowing fire like a volcano," he said of the e-cig. He added that the device's battery was "stuck to my thigh."
The device, which Kromer said he did not modify in any way, burned through his clothes and caused serious second and third-degree burns, he said doctors told him.
"It's literally an explosion, a super-hot explosion," Dr. Anne Wagner of the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Burn Center told NBC News in March 2016. By that point in the year, Wagner said UCH had treated six people seriously injured by e-cigarettes.
A year later, a Denver TV station compiled a list of at least 34 e-cig explosions in Colorado alone for 2016. That's nearly 10 more cases in one state for one year than the U.S. Fire Administration could compile for a report covering a five-year period. [Read more below].
"It hurts like no pain I have ever experienced," Kromer said, adding he may ultimately have to have a skin graft to cover the damage.
According to the National Fire Protection Association:
(Anatomy of an e-cigarette. Source: Ecigtopia)
In a 2014 report from the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA estimates approximately 2.5 million Americans use e-cigarettes, and that while fires or explosions are "rare", at least 25 incidents were reported by the media between 2009 and 2014. None of those incidents resulted in death.
"The shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like "flaming rockets" when a battery fails," the report noted.
Kromer said he's heard news before of the devices exploding but never thought it could happen to him. He said now he's done using the e-cigarettes, and while he hasn't filed a report at this point, Kromer said he is considering contacting an attorney.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the metal piece in the included photo is of the device's battery, not the device itself.