April 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy is banning the possession and use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers aboard its vessels and aircraft.
The order, issued to protect the safety of sailors and equipment, takes effect May 14 and applies to all sailors, Marines, military sealift command civilians and any personnel. Sailors and other personnel will still be permitted to use the devices at bases, but must do so in designated smoking areas.
"This new policy is in response to continued reports of explosions of ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries," the Navy said in a press release. "Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement, or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting."
The decision was announced by the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and the commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet. The prohibition will continue at least as long as the Navy is conducting an analysis of e-cigarette dangers.
E-cigarettes, reportedly invented in China in 2003, are electronic devices that vaporize a flavored liquid made from nicotine and other chemical products. Users maintain the vapor is less harmful than tobacco.
The U.S. Department of Transportation banned e-cigarettes from civilian aircraft last year amid reports of explosions and fire caused by the battery powered devices. The U.S. Navy released information on 15 incidents with e-cigarettes that occurred between October 2015 and June 2016, and the FDA has received nearly 160 reports of e-cigarettes overheating, exploding or catching fire since 2009.
"Based on the experience of other FDA-regulated products, it is important to note that adverse experience reporting received is an underestimate of actual events," FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum told The Virginian-Pilot.
The U.S. Navy said units deployed when the prohibition takes effect can request an extension on removal of the devices until their next port visit.