Electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” are often argued to be a safer alternative to smoking, but two Bakersfield men are claiming otherwise in a pair of lawsuits.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Vincente Garza and his attorney, Gregory L. Bentley of the Shernoff Birdart Echeverria Bentley law firm, announced a lawsuit has been filed against the sellers and manufacturers of e-cigarettes that allegedly exploded in the course of regular use.

According to court documents, Garza was “vaping” an e-cigarette when it exploded in his mouth and caused severe injuries to his mouth, tongue and finger. His left index finger was amputated to the first knuckle as a result of the explosion. He also had surgery on his tongue immediately after the explosion.

Bentley said a product liability lawsuit has been filed against the store where Garza purchased the e-cigarette and battery, Luxor Café Vape Lounge on Calloway Drive; the store that sold him a charger for the device, Fame Vape on Chester Avenue; and the e-cigarette manufacturer, Flawless Vapes and Supplies LLC.

A second Bakersfield resident, Gregory Phillips, is also filing a lawsuit after he says his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket, the filing said. He suffered second-degree burns over most of his left leg, which required two skin graft surgeries.

Phillips is also suing the store he said he purchased the e-cigarette from, Cigarette World 4 on Stockdale Highway.

Fame Vape and Cigarette World were unavailable for comment on Saturday. Luxor Café Vape Lounge is being represented by Campbell Whitton law firm, who had not responded to messages seeking comment by Saturday evening.

The lawsuits allege that the manufacturing and design of the devices does not have enough checks and balances to ensure they are safe.

Bakersfield law firm Chain Cohn Stiles is working with Shernoff Birdart Echeverria Bentley in representing the Bakersfield residents. A press conference further describing the cases will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 24 at the firm’s office on Chester Avenue.

“Many consumers don’t know or are unaware of the fact that e-cigarettes and ‘vapes’ that are commonly sold in our community have the potential of exploding during use, or spontaneously catching fire,” Chain Cohn Stiles attorney Matthew Clark said.  

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