The outbreak of rapid onset vaping-related lung illnesses and fatalities is rapidly reaching epidemic proportions. As of last week, 1,479 lung injury cases, including 33 deaths and many cases of permanent lung damage, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the 48 continental U.S. states, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While no state except Alaska appears to be immune to this epidemic, the majority of cases have occurred in only 10 states, as shown in the CDCs map of the number of reported cases.
In Florida alone, 68 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses have been reported, and alarmingly, an ever-increasing number of youths are getting addicted. According to the state Department of Health, between 2017 and 2018, teen users increased by 60%, and almost 25% of all high school students in the state say they currently vape.
Unfortunately, this trend is not limited to Florida. Nationwide, more than 3 million American high school students report having tried e-cigarettes (i.e., vaping), and over 50% of the vaping-related lung disease patients in the U.S. are under age 25. Parents, healthcare professionals, and some public officials are wondering why more has not been done to control the vaping industry and stop the spread of this deadly new disease.
Meanwhile, scientists at the CDC and FDA, along with state and local public health departments, are searching for the cause of this illness. To date, they have not been able to pinpoint the specific cause of the lung injuries; however, they do know that all of the victims have one thing in common: vaping.
States, Counties, and Municipalities Take Action against Vaping
While cases of life-threatening lung injuries proliferate across the country, the FDA and CDC are issuing only general recommendations (e.g., “E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant.”). This follows a decade of federal inaction during which the unregulated vaping industry has flourished, growing to $7 billion a year in sales.
After intensive lobbying by the vaping industry, the FDA has given e-cigarette manufacturers until 2020 to apply for authorization, but states, counties, and municipalities are not waiting to take action:
- California – The governor issued an executive order focused on controlling the spread of vaping among teens. The state will run a vaping awareness campaign, and the state Department of Public Health will develop requirements for e-cigarette retailers to post signs warning consumers of the health risks of vaping. Meanwhile San Francisco has enacted its own ban on the sale of all nicotine e-cigarette products, and Los Angeles County is considering a ban on all flavored products.
- Florida – State law prohibits selling vaping products to anyone under 18, and the state attorney general recently announced that her office is investigating vaping companies’ marketing practices that promote their products to teens to determine if they violate the law.
- Massachusetts – The governor declared a public health emergency and lawmakers imposed a four-month, statewide ban on all sales of all marijuana and tobacco vaping products, flavored or unflavored.
- Michigan – The governor issued an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vaping products in September, 2019, but retailers sued, and a month later, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled that the governor had overstepped her authority. Michigan legislators were considering a permanent policy to limit the sale of vaping products, but the judge’s injunction allows retailers to continue selling flavored products for another six months.
- New York – The state enacted the first statewide ban on most flavored nicotine vaping products. According to the ban, retailers caught selling flavored products would be fined up to $2,000 per violation. Presently, however, the ban has been delayed by a state court ruling.
- Rhode Island – The governor issued an executive order banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes for 120 days. The state can then continue the ban for another 60 days.
- Utah – The state banned all sales of flavored e-cigarettes, except in adult-only tobacco shops.
- Washington, Montana, and Oregon – These states have implemented temporary bans on flavored vaping products.
Other states, including Illinois, New Jersey, and Delaware, are considering legislation to ban most vaping products, and according to a recent New York Times report, the Trump Administration says it is planning a nationwide ban on most flavored e-cigarettes.
Injured Consumers Sue E-Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers
Teens and others who have already been harmed by vaping products don’t have time to wait for a possible federal ban. Dozens of lawsuits against the largest e-cigarette product manufacturer, Juul, have already been filed. With increasing numbers of teens and young adults experiencing serious vaping-related lung injuries, the expectation is that many more product liability lawsuits will be filed to hold e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers accountable for the injuries caused by their dangerous products.
At issue are the facts that e-cigarette manufacturers produced a dangerous product with very high levels of nicotine, targeted young users, and promoted e-cigarette products as being a safe alternative to cigarettes. Indeed, vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes, but e-cigarettes are still very addictive and dangerous.
Doctors have reported that even those teens who do not suffer a serious lung injury are at risk for addiction and other symptoms typically associated with substance abuse, such as explosive anger, extreme mood swings, insomnia, and headaches. Moreover, research shows that dangerous compounds, carcinogenic metals, and toxins are used in e-cigarettes, and it is known that vaping damages cells, affects lung functioning, and leads to cancer and other serious medical conditions. In addition, e-cigarette batteries can overheat and explode, causing serious injuries and even death.
As they marketed their products and grew their businesses, Juul and other manufacturers did not disclose the dangers associated with vaping, and they must be held accountable for their negligence and the harm it has caused.
One mother is especially adamant about holding Juul accountable. Her eighteen-year-old son, Daniel Wakefield, died unexpectedly in August from breathing complications, and his family believes those complications were due to his vaping addiction. Wakefield’s mother has filed the first wrongful death suit over vaping, claiming Juul’s products caused her son’s death and accusing the e-cigarette company of falsely advertising its products as safe.
Florida Personal Injury Attorneys Fight for Justice
Hopefully, product liability and wrongful death lawsuits will hold the companies that manufacture and sell harmful e-cigarette products accountable for their negligent and harmful actions. At Boyers Law Group, we are committed to pursuing justice on behalf of people who suffer from serious and debilitating injuries, such as those from vaping, which are caused by others’ negligent or harmful conduct.
Our attorneys have a long track record of success in holding wrongdoers accountable for their conduct while obtaining substantial compensation for the injuries and losses suffered by our clients. If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaping-related injury, we want to help you get the justice you deserve.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, Oct.). Outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping.
Florida Department of Health. (2018). Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.
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Koh, E., & Dawson, A. (2019, Oct. 16). Florida attorney general opens investigation into vaping companies’ marketing practices. Tampa Bay Times.
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