Vaping Injury Lawsuits
Over 450 cases of lung injury related to vaping have been reported to health officials in at least 35 states and U.S. territories. These vaping injuries have also included at least six deaths, and more may be expected.
People of all ages have been affected by vaping injuries, including teens, adults and at least one man over 65 years of age. Many of these injuries have resulted in hospitalization, treatment in the intensive care unit, medically induced coma, life support or even death.
Vape-Related Lung Illnesses
Vape injuries have occurred in people who range in age from teens to elder adults and are spread across the U.S. and its territories. Of the cases that have been subjected to statistical analysis, 80% of the reports involved the use of vape liquid with THC, 60% had used nicotine and about half had used both.
Reports indicate that illnesses have included a number of different types of pneumonia and other serious effects including:
- Lipoid pneumonia, caused by inhaling vapor containing lipids (fat or oil) that collects in the lungs
- Acute eosinophilic pneumonia, caused white blood cells which build up in the lungs due to inflammatory and immune responses
- Bacterial pneumonia caused by severe respiratory infection
- Blistered lung, caused by inhaling hot vapor
- Collapsed lung due to blister
- Medically induced coma
- Ventilator or life support
- Respiratory failure
More than 450 lung injury cases and six vape-related deaths have already been reported, but many more may occur.
Causes of Vaping Lung Injury
On September 6, 2019, CDC officials stated that a distinct cause had not been identified but several theories have been pursued. Their main recommendation was that the people should stop using e-cigarettes until the cause of injuries can be determined and safety can be evaluated. Federal officials particularly noted that vaping is more harmful to teens, young adults and pregnant women.
Officials at the New York State Department of Health have stated that they are investigating a substance used in many THC-containing vape liquids, Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is a supplement that is used topically or taken as an oral capsule but is not intended to be inhaled. Substances that are normally “safe” to eat or use on the skin are not always safe if used in another manner.
Vitamin E acetate may degrade and become toxic if burned and other flavorings or ingredients added to vape liquids may act similarly, but officials have stated that it is too early to identify a cause. The FDA is currently testing over 120 products for a range of chemicals, ingredients and constituents.
In particular they have identified nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but are also looking for pesticides and opioids along with other chemicals Thus far, results have not indicated that one single substance is the be considered the cause for all cases.
Vape Use in the U.S.
Electronic cigarettes were introduced in 2007 and were intended to be a “stop-smoking” aid. Statistics show that over 9 million people use vapes or e-cigarettes routinely, including 3.6 million teens. The products designed to help people quit smoking may have led to more teens becoming addicted to nicotine than intended.
There are dozens of vape types and brands of e-cigarettes, vape pens and vaporizers. In general, the products work in a similar manner. Inside a chamber of the e-cigarette or vape, flavored liquid – which may or may not contain nicotine or other substances – is heated and converted into a mist or vapor which can be inhaled. Vaping was intended to look and feel like smoking, with no flame or burning required.
Though e-cigarettes have been said to be safer than regular cigarette smoking, little research has been done. Their appeal often has to do with greater acceptance of the smoking which does not “smell” but in recent years, an increasing number of “flavors” have been introduced.
Flavored liquids or “juices” include candy, desert and fruit flavors and more traditional “tobacco” or “menthol” flavors. The number of flavors and exciting, colorful packaging has been a major factor for criticism of vaping. Teens have reported that flavors of vaping are attractive, cite them as a reason for them to start vaping and may have led them to believe that vaping was safe.
This is obvious when considering the most popular vape type amongst teens, the “Juul”. Because of its popularity and questionable marketing tactics, Juul Labs has been subject to numerous warnings but has not been associated directly with the latest round of lung illnesses.
Other Substances May Have Been the Cause
The vast number of different e-cigarette manufacturers, juices and products on the market, along with lack of FDA regulations are making it harder for health authorities to pinpoint cause. Some users are also vaping things other than nicotine juices, including THC containing solutions that are homemade or were not intended for vaping.
In addition to THC and/or Vitamin E acetate, investigators have considered propylene glycol and glycerol that releases formaldehyde when it burns at too high of a temperature, glycerol oils that congeal in the lungs, and flavorings or thickeners, or ingredients which burn and disintegrate to release toxins.
Cartridges that appeared to be safe, may have been black market or counterfeit, but little information may have been provided by manufacturers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is authorized to regulate devices like e-cigarettes, but new regulations have been slow to be written. This oversight has allowed some manufacturers to take advantage of the lack of regulations and many more new products have been introduced without agency review.
The availability of marijuana or THC oil in some areas has also complicated the market. Some states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, but it is technically still illegal under federal law. Because of the legal issues, few studies have been done on marijuana, and certainly not on THC oil administered through vape devices.
At the same time, the numbers of teens who are vaping has increased dramatically. The difference in how teens view vaping and how they view smoking may increase the risk that health professionals will overlook e-cigarette use. Doctors many not even know how to question their patients. Patients may respond “no” when asked about smoking, or even vaping but will respond “yes” when asked about “Juuling”.
Juul Laboratories has twice been warned by the FDA regarding promotion of their Juul e-cigarette products to minors using glossy and high-color action ads and videos. The company responded by restricting sales to customers over the age of 21 years, withdrawing a number of ads and by issuing new programs and information which may have inadvertently led to further engagement of teens.
Much of the criticism for e-cigarette use in teens and young adults has involved flavored nicotine juices which come in candy, fruit and desert flavors. Recently, several government agencies have announced intention to address flavored liquids. Flavored e-cigarettes have been banned in Michigan with similar bans under consideration in other states and by the federal government.
Vape-Related Lung Illness Lawsuits
In severe cases, patients have been hospitalized and required treatment in intensive care units. Up to six deaths have already been attributed to the vape-related lung illnesses. People who suffer vape-related lung injury will face expensive treatments and possible disability, and some may unfortunately die as a result of e-cigarette use.
People or loved ones of those who have been hospitalized, placed on life support or suffered serious lung injury or died due to vape use, should seek legal advice.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.