Vape pen explosion shatters 17-year-old boy's jaw: It looked 'like a close-range gunshot wound'

A Nevada teenager was hospitalized after his vape pen exploded in his mouth, leaving him with injuries consistent with "a close-range gunshot wound."

Austin Adams, now 18, asked his mother, 45-year-old Kailani Burton, to buy him a vape kit in March 2018 to help him quit smoking, a request which she agreed to, according to a case study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adams used the device — made by a company called VGOD — for about a month until one day it exploded in his mouth while he was smoking, shattering his jaw, breaking several of his teeth and leaving him with severe burns to his lips and face. 

"Austin came in with his hand up to his mouth," Burton told NBC News. "He was in shock and unable to speak."

Burton had to drive her wounded son, who was 17 at the time, five hours from their rural town of Ely, Nev., to the nearest hospital capable of treating his injury, which was Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Dr. Katie Russell, the trauma medical director at Primary Children's Hospital who co-authored the case published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said she had never seen an injury like Adams' before. 

"I had no idea that a vape pen could cause this major of an injury because it takes some serious force to break your jaw," she remarked.

Dr. Jonathan Skiro, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon who treated Adams, told the Washington Post that the teen's injuries resembled "a close-range gunshot wound."

"The tissue kind of got vaporized," he recalled.

Photos of the injury: 

Vape pen explosion shatters 17-year-old boy's jaw
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Vape pen explosion shatters 17-year-old boy's jaw
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Photo: New England Journal of Medicine
Photo: New England Journal of Medicine

Dr. Russel said she wanted to share the case in order to educate the public, especially children and their parents, about the dangers of electronic vaping devices.

"I don't think we've adequately educated the public about the consequences," she said. "As a pediatric surgeon, I'm really focusing on children, and I think that there are millions of children that have access to these devices."

Adams underwent multiple surgeries to fix his wounds, including having titanium plates placed in his jaw bone, and has since recovered. 

His mother said she hopes the incident will have parents reconsider allowing their children to use e-cigarettes.

"I want parents to know how dangerous it is for their kids," Burton said. "It could've killed him. It could've been worse."

Burton is certainly not misguided in her concern.

In February, a Texas man identified as 24-year-old William Eric Brown died after a vaping device he was smoking exploded in the parking lot of a vape supply store, severing his carotid artery.

Brown is the second person in the U.S. known to have died due to an exploding e-cigarette. The first was a Florida man who perished in a house fire started by one of the devices in May 2018, NBC News reports. 

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