Shayne Jacopian for redOrbit.com – @ShayneJacopian
According to Mythbusters, the answer is mostly no.
While a cigarette butt has the potential to ignite gasoline, it doesn’t have enough sustained heat. Gasoline ignites at 500-550°F, and cigarettes don’t even get close to that unless they’re actually being smoked, in which case, a cigarette can almost reach 500°.
So if your car starts hemorrhaging gasoline and you decide to jump ship just as you take a drag, then maybe your car (and you) will explode. But a cigarette butt tossed out of a moving vehicle sending the whole thing up in smoke? Not a chance.
But you know what kind of cigarettes can explode?
The electronic ones. It’s a rare occurrence, with only 25 incidents in the US in the last five years, according to the USFA, but even so, it’s more likely than a cigarette igniting a moving vehicle.
However, of all incidents reported, only 8% of them occurred while the e-cig was in use, with 80% of explosions occurring while a device’s battery was being charged, and few of them resulting in bodily harm.
Still, those few instances where injury did occur were pretty brutal. In Florida, a man got all of his teeth and part of his tongue blown out when an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth. Outside of the US, and elderly Englishman died when his charging e-cigarette ignited, which in turn caused his oxygen concentrator to explode, with another suffering severe injuries to his legs as the result of a vape pen explosion.
So while you can’t blow up your car by tossing out a spent cigarette, it’s plausible that you could blow it up by charging (or smoking) an electronic one inside.
Whether or not other cigarette alternatives like Nicorette can explode remains to be seen.