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E-cigs safety information probed

An investigation into safety information surrounding electronic cigarettes has been ordered by the Government after a spate of incidents linked to the devices.

Figures obtained by the Press Association earlier this month revealed that e-cigarettes or related equipment, including chargers, were involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years.

Today, ministers outlined measures to boost awareness of the safest practices when using the technology.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a number of trading standards departments to investigate whether current safety information is sufficient and widely available enough to consumers.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said: "We have all seen the recent media coverage about fires caused by e-cigarettes, so it is clear that consumers need to be aware of the risks posed by them and know how to charge them safely.

"This is why I have asked Trading Standards to look at what information is currently available to consumers and to explore whether we need to do more to make sure there is enough guidance to help them stay safe."

It comes after the Local Government Association, which represents all 46 fire authorities in England and Wales, called for safety messages to be displayed on e-cigarette kits.

The Government also published advice to help the estimated 2.1 million Britons using e-cigarettes to do so safely.

The tips include:

:: Ensure that e-cigarettes are not left charging for long periods of time.

:: Do not leave e-cigarettes plugged in overnight or when you are out of the house.

:: Look for the CE mark that indicates chargers comply with European safety standards.

Fire Safety Minister Penny Mordaunt said: "Fire safety is our first priority, which is why in Electrical Fire Safety Week it is important to make sure consumers have access to good advice on these products, including tips on how to minimise any risk of accidents from over-charging or faulty chargers."

Many incidents are suspected to have been sparked by users connecting e-cigarettes to incompatible chargers.

Data from 43 fire services provided following a freedom of information request showed earlier this month that since 2012 they had attended 113 calls to fires related to e-cigarette equipment.

The figures indicated that brigades were attending incidents involving the technology at a rate of around one a week.

From the services that provided data, e-cigarettes were cited as being involved in eight fires in 2012, rising to 43 last year, while there have been at least 62 so far this year.

In August, David Thomson, 62, was killed when an e-cigarette on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using.

It was thought to be the first fatality from a fire involving an e-cigarette in Britain. Other incidents have resulted in people being hurt or their homes being badly damaged.

A spokeswoman for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) said: " 'ECITA fully supports this approach from both central and local governments. Retailers and manufacturers need to ensure, by law, the safety of their customers.

"We urge consumers to heed the safety advice given out, and inform themselves when purchasing any electrical product, especially when it comes to products that can be recharged.

"Avoid cheap alternative chargers, always purchase from reputable retailers, follow the manufacturers' instructions and only use the charger supplied with the product."

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