Juul, Vape and E-Cigarette Lawyers
Most people recognize the health risks that are associated with cigarettes, and nicotine products are known to cause developmental and medical problems in people who use them. Teens are particularly susceptible to developmental and health problems from smoking since their brains are not finished developing until they are in their 20s. A study that was conducted by Yale University and published in 2005 in Biological Psychiatry found that teens who smoked cigarettes showed cognitive deficits and impairments of their working memory and verbal memory.
The rates of teen smoking have substantially fallen over the last four decades. In 1976, 28.8% of high school seniors reported that they were daily smokers. In 2018, by contrast, just 3.6% of high school seniors reported that they smoked daily. While the rates of teen smoking have dropped, the use of e-cigarettes among teens has skyrocketed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 16.2% of high school seniors report that they have used these devices in the past month. Out of the teens who vape, 66% stated that they thought their devices only contained flavoring. Juul Labs, the maker of the most popular vaping device, has allegedly misrepresented its device as being a safe alternative to smoking. At the same time, they have increased the nicotine content in the pods and use flavors that attract children, leading to a new generation of people who are addicted to nicotine. Now, reports of hundreds of cases of a new lung disease associated with the use of vapes are emerging, and multiple deaths have occurred.
The injury team at Lamber Goodnow and our co-counsel firms are currently reviewing cases involving e-cigarettes and the resulting serious injuries or deaths that have occurred.
What is Juul?
Juuls are devices that look like USB drives. They were introduced in 2015 and have quickly become the most popular e-cigarettes among teens. These devices have a battery-powered heating element that heats the pods to turn the nicotine-containing fluid into an aerosol, which the users then inhale. The company manufacturers pods of nicotine fluid in a broad array of flavors, including fruit flavors, mint, creme brulee, and others that are highly attractive to teens. Teenagers also like these devices because they are easy to hide and do not produce the typical smells associated with cigarettes. Teens brag about Juuling and can get away with using the devices in classrooms and bathrooms without being detected. While the company claims that it wants to help smokers to quit smoking, the use of these devices is causing an entirely new generation to develop serious nicotine addictions and health problems.
Safety of Juul’s device
Juuls have been advertised by the company as healthy alternatives to cigarettes. However, these devices do not appear to be as safe as they have been advertised. Like other e-cigarettes, these devices deliver nicotine by heating a liquid medium instead of through tobacco. Since they do not use a flame or tobacco, they do not produce the types of carcinogens that are produced from smoking cigarettes.
Recently, studies have started to show that e-cigarette devices may be just as dangerous or more so than cigarettes. Some of the problems with these devices are the mediums that are used to deliver nicotine, including glycerin and propylene glycol, the solvents in e-cigarette devices that allow the nicotine to be vaporized. According to a study that was completed by the Baylor College of Medicine and published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in Sept. 2019, vaping can cause changes in the cells of the lungs and reduce the body’s ability to fight off lung illnesses even when THC and nicotine are not present in the vape liquids. The research, which was conducted on mice, found that inhaling the aerosols caused some of the immune cells in the lungs to become clogged with lipids, reducing the ability of the mice to fight off respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. The researchers think that the solvents themselves are potentially causing the aberrant changes that they found in the lungs and have called for more research into the impact of the solvents.
Another study looked at the concentrations of flavor chemicals and nicotine in Juul’s flavored pods. This study, which was published in Chemical Research in Toxicology in June 2019, found that there were high concentrations of favor chemicals and nicotine in the pods. Some of the flavor chemicals, like ethyl maltol, were present in high enough concentrations to be cytotoxic. This means that they could cause cellular death. The researchers also found the nicotine in the pods was present in much higher concentrations than in other e-cigarettes. The nicotine concentration of the pods averaged 60.9 mg/ml while most e-cigarettes have concentrations ranging from 5 mg/ml to 30 mg/ml. This high concentration of nicotine makes these devices very addictive and potentially toxic.
A 2015 study by researchers at Harvard that was published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that 90% of the e-cigarettes that were analyzed contained diacetyl. Diacetyl is a flavoring agent that is used in many food products. While it is considered to be safe to eat, it can cause a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, which is more commonly known as popcorn lung. This is a chronic lung disease that can lead to permanent disability or death.
Emergence of new lung disease from vaping
As of Sept. 17, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there have been 530 cases of mysterious new lung diseases in 38 states, and seven people have died. All of the cases involve people who used vapes within 90 days of when they contracted the illness. The victims were previously healthy. Among the victims, 67% were between the ages of 18 and 34, and 16% were younger than 18 when they contracted the disease. People have contracted the disease after they vaped with e-cigarettes that contained nicotine, THC, or both. The CDC states that it is unclear which ingredients in the devices might be causing the illness.
The symptoms of this new lung disease include the following:
- Sudden onset of coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
In most cases, people have experienced rapid deteriorations in their health, prompting them to seek treatment at the emergency department. Many people have developed a severe condition called acute respiratory syndrome, which causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs and prevents oxygen from circulating throughout the body.
Injuries from e-cigarettes
Some of the injuries that people have suffered from using e-cigarettes include the following:
- Disfigurement, burns, and scarring in explosions of vapes
- Tooth loss in explosions
- Eye damage in explosions
- Damage to fingers and hands in explosions
- Popcorn lung from inhaling diacetyl
- Newly discovered lung disease
- Cognitive deficits and developmental problems
- Severe nicotine addiction
- Reduced immune response
- Cardiovascular disease
Potential claims against the manufacturers
Because of the serious injuries and deaths that have resulted from using vape devices, lawsuits are already being filed across the U.S. There are several potential claims that can be filed against Juul’s maker and other e-cigarette companies. Many of the legal claims against the company in the lawsuits that have already been filed revolve around the company’s marketing practices. Researchers at Stanford University evaluated the company’s marketing campaigns during its first three years and found that the company targeted young people and teens. The company reportedly advertised on social media pages that were frequently visited by young people, used hashtags, and paid influencers to market its product. It also depicted its device being used by attractive young people who were partying and who appeared happy. Many lawsuits have filed claims that the company engaged in illegal marketing to minors. While the company argues that it has not targeted minors, teenagers who testified before Congress in July 2019 reported that the company’s representatives came to their ninth-grade classroom and told their class that the device was safe.
A related claim against the company concerns its deceptive marketing practices. The company has downplayed the addictive potential of the device and failed to tell consumers about the high levels of nicotine that the pods contain. The company allegedly failed to let young people know that its product contained high levels of nicotine, leaving many to become hopelessly addicted and to face potentially lifelong addiction issues.
On Sept. 9, 2019, the federal Food and Drug Administration sent the company a letter warning it about illegal marketing practices. The particular marketing practices that are at issue with the FDA are the company’s marketing its product as being safer than cigarettes. Companies are not allowed to market tobacco alternatives in that way unless they have first presented scientific evidence to the FDA and have received approval for that type of marketing.
Claims have also been filed against companies because of defective batteries used in the devices. The batteries are lithium-ion batteries, which can suddenly explode when they become overheated. Explosions have caused severe scarring, eye damage, and other serious injuries when people were using their devices as intended.
In one lawsuit that was filed in federal court in Florida, the plaintiff alleged that Juul’s maker engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of the RICO Act. The plaintiffs also allege that the company engaged in fraudulent advertising and that it failed to warn consumers about the risks of using its electronic cigarettes. It also claims that the devices are defectively designed because they deliver much more nicotine than the company claims. It also asserts some negligence claims and violations of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Potential compensation in a lawsuit
The amount of money that might be recoverable in a lawsuit will vary from case to case. Some of the potential types of compensation that might be recoverable include the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Costs of addiction treatment
- Income losses
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
- Physical pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
Schools, counties, and states are also starting to file lawsuits because of the epidemic. Recently, a state attorney in Lake County, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against Juul’s maker for creating a public epidemic. In that lawsuit, the county is seeking punitive damages against the company to use for programs to help teens with their addictions. Schools could also potentially have claims to pay for extra staff to police the grounds and bathrooms for vapers. Finally, in May, North Carolina became the first state to sue the company, and more are likely to follow.
Talk to our experienced personal injury lawyers
Juuls have precipitated a public health crisis across the U.S., leading potentially millions of teens to develop serious addictions, health problems, and developmental issues. The deceptive and illegal marketing techniques used by the manufacturer have caused substantial harm to many lives. If you or your teen has developed a nicotine addiction and health issues because of these devices, you may have legal grounds to bring a claim. Similarly, schools, counties, tribes, and states may also have grounds to file lawsuits to recover money for additional staff and programs to combat the use of these devices and addiction problems. The attorneys at Lamber Goodnow and our co-counsel firms are knowledgeable personal injury lawyers with extensive experience litigating complex claims. Contact us or one of our co-counsel firms today to schedule a free consultation to learn about the rights that you might have.
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