By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – E-cigarettes have become a popular alternative to smoking tobacco, but many people don’t realize that they can blow up or catch fire causing very serious injuries. There are dangers linked to electronic cigarettes, not from inhaling the vapors, but from the fires and explosions they cause, described as flaming rockets.

It was sudden and terrifying Evan Spahlinger’s customizes electronic cigarette exploded in his face.

“When it happened it was basically like a pipe bomb,” Evan said. “It just exploded. I literally thought I was going to die.”

He’s had a series of surgeries to repair burns to his face, mouth and lungs.

“I mean it was an alternative to smoking cigarettes. Suppose to be a safer and a healthy way of doing it,” Evan said.  “If I would have known that there is a risk of me, fighting for my life, and being in a hospital, I would have never picked it up.”

Jennifer Reese was also severely burned from an e-cigarette. Hers was charging in her car when it suddenly burst into flames.

“It was like a blow torch type of fire, and then an explosion,” Jennifer said.

The U.S Fire Administration has documented dozens of e-cigarette explosions around the country. This surveillance video shows a ball of flames erupting next to a bartender, after a charging e-cigarette exploded.

“There’s generally user error,” said Spike Babaian, owner of several e-cigarette stores.

Spike says most accidents happen when the batteries overheat because the wrong chargers are used, something she says is easily preventable.

“Buy a proper charger, that’s intended for e- cigarettes, that will cut off at a proper time and not overcharge your batteries,” Spike says.

Many say a big part of the problem with e-cigarettes is lack of industry regulation.

The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, in a statement, said in part, “While these incidents are taken very seriously, proper care and safety dictate that people use the correct type of charger and follow manufacturer guidelines when recharging their devices.”