Rising numbers of Americans are suffering from harmful side effects and injuries being attributed to JUUL vaping devices and other e-cig products. Despite marketing claims that JUUL and e-cigarettes in general are safer than traditional cigarettes, their use may be causing addiction and other serious health problems — even death.
Although JUUL and other vaping devices have been used in America for several years, vaping deaths and vaping injuries have surged this year, in 2019.
In all, more than 530 serious vaping injuries and eight vaping deaths have been reported this year in 38 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And it’s getting progressively worse. Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 17 of this year, 150 of those 530 vaping injuries were reported.
Most Vaping Victims Are Under 25
Data collected so far shows that nearly three-fourths of the victims have been males. As for age, data shows that over half of all victims have been younger than 25, while two-thirds of all victims have been between 18 to 34 years old. Another 16 percent of persons suffering vaping-related injuries have been younger than 18.
Harmful vaping side effects have been most prevalent among users in their 20s and their late teens who otherwise did not have any underlying health problems. Nor were they found to have infections as an underlying cause of their illness.
Instead, the only common factor among those suffering mysterious respiratory problems and seeking hospital care has been the fact that they used vaping products.
Vaping Deaths in Seven States
As for vaping-related deaths by illness, two have occurred in California, and one each has occurred in Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Oregon. (These vaping deaths in seven states do not include at least two deaths from injuries suffered by exploding vapes.)
The manner in which vaping has caused illnesses and even deaths has not yet been determined, but vaping has been a constant among those who have suffered unusual respiratory symptoms.
Often targeted as a possible cause of such vaping ailments has been the liquid nicotine cartridges inserted into a vape. These liquids can include harmful chemicals.
Vaping Side Effects, Symptoms
Some of the common symptoms of vaping-related illnesses include headaches, chest pains, vomiting, shortness of breath and other difficulties in breathing. Victims also have experienced coughing, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Some vaping-related injuries may be due to nicotine poisoning or a nicotine overdose. According to Medical News Today, within the first hour of nicotine poisoning these symptoms can include:
- Excessive saliva in the mouth
- Feelings of nausea
- Stomach aches
- Loss of appetite
- Eye irritation
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Rapid breathing
- Raised blood pressure
- Raised heart rate
Symptoms can be worse in extreme cases of nicotine poisoning. These symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory failure
Medical News Today found that nicotine poisoning in adults is most commonly caused by vaping and liquid nicotine, The most common method of nicotine poisoning in children, it reported, is by consuming the liquid nicotine used in vapes, or by eating cigarettes.
What Are Vaping Injuries?
Beyond nicotine poisoning, vaping injuries which may be caused by using various e-cig devices such as JUUL can include ailments which are common to traditional smoking, as well as some which are unique to vaping.
Side effects from JUUL and other vaping devices may include:
- Liquid pneumonia
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Lung cancer
- Cardiovascular toxicity
- Bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as obliterative bronchiolitis or as “popcorn lung.”
Popcorn lung involves an obstruction of the tiniest airways of the lungs because of inflammation. It produces symptoms including a dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Some recent studies also indicate that vaping tobacco products raises the indoor concentration of microscopic pollutants such as PM2.5 and ultra-fine particles. Exposure to such tiny particles as part of general air pollution has been associated with cardiovascular ailments such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
Vaping Can Cause Lung Cancer
As indicated in the list above, there is also a potential for lung cancer from JUUL and other vaping devices. This is despite their sellers’ claims that vapes are safer than traditional cigarettes, which are widely known to cause cancer.
Some vapes’ liquid cartridges contain nitrosamines, a potent pancreatic carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer. Also, some vape products may produce particles of heavy metals such as lead, chromium, cadmium, nickel and manganese which may become lodged in the lungs or pulmonary tissues.
Vapes Can Poison
Beyond nicotine poisoning, vapes can poison in other ways, too. One way is via the chemicals applied to vape juice, or liquid nicotine, to give them flavors.
The Journal of Pediatrics reported in 2018 that some of the chemicals used to produce fruit flavors in vape liquids had carcinogenic effects, which means they can cause cancer.
Such chemicals in vape juice have included acrolein, which is applied to water treatment ponds and irrigation canals to kill algae and plant blooms, as well as toluene, which is used in commercial adhesives and in paint thinners.
Some vapes’ liquid flavoring chemicals even have included formaldehyde, which is a commonly used embalming fluid on dead persons.
These chemicals can lead to the development of the severe and irreversible lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung. That ailment is not commonly associated with cigarette smoking, but rather with vaping.
Vaping Can Cause Death
Vaping may even cause death, as indicated by at least eight deaths in seven states in 2019 — deaths which were reported to be vaping related.
So far no particular brand of vaping device or vaping liquid has been determined to cause these vaping deaths. It’s believed that some of them occurred after users bought vaping liquid off the streets, and not from a traditional retail source.
In fact, healthcare professionals have urged people not to purchase vaping products off the streets, and not to modify vaping products.
Nonetheless, vaping devices such as JUUL, which are widely sold at retail, also appear to be the source of vaping illnesses and injuries.
Vapes Can Explode
Even before the recent rash of vaping injuries and deaths linked to inhaling the vapors of such devices, news erupted that some defective vapes can explode.
It’s been found that the batteries in some vapes can explode even when the device is not in use. Such vape explosions can send shards of metal into the air and harm persons nearby.
In fact, on Jan. 29, 2019 a man in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area died two days after he was hospitalized when an exploding vape pen sent shards of metal into his face and neck, severing his carotid artery. The victim, William Brown, was just 24 years old.
Also, on May 5, 2018 a man in St. Petersburg, Florida died when an exploding vape pen sent shards of metal into his head. Killed was Tallmadge D’Elia, 38.
The Washington Post reported that an estimated 2,035 people suffering injuries from e-cigarette explosions and burns were brought to U.S. emergency rooms from 2015-2017. That doesn’t count e-cig or vape explosions which did not lead to hospital treatment.
FDA, CDC Combine Vaping Investigations
In view of the ongoing vaping injury and vaping death crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched a vape investigation. That FDA vaping investigation targets all vaping devices, not just JUUL.
Another federal agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a health advisory on Aug. 30, 2019, urging the public to stop using all vaping products, but especially those purchased off the street.
Now the FDA and the CDC are combining their efforts to pinpoint the source of severe vaping injuries. How vapes injure people isn’t yet known, but the fact remains that vape users are suffering.
How Do Vapes Work?
As for how vapes work, that depends on the individual device. All are built to heat liquid or loose-leaf products to a certain temperature, at which point the products’ active ingredients, such as nicotine, become a vapor which can be inhaled by the user. Thus, the term “vaping” was born.
Some vapes are designed to heat loose-leaf plant material such as tobacco or marijuana — plants which are not in liquid form. These plants must be loaded into a vape before each vape usage, unlike liquid the cartridges which can last for many vape uses.
Most of today’s e-cigs use a cartridge in the vaping device which is filled with liquid nicotine or other elements. This cartridge is used until it is empty and then is replaced.
In general, each such cartridge is believed to provide from 200 to 400 puffs. That’s the equivalent of two to three packs of traditional cigarettes, which translates to 40 to 60 cigarettes per liquid vaping cartridge.
Along with liquid nicotine, vaping devices which use cartridges also can have liquid THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; liquid CBD, another chemical compound found in marijuana or cannabis plants; and butane hash oils known as dabs.
What is JUUL?
As for what is JUUL, it is the most popular vaping device in America, with around three-fourths of the entire vaping market.
A JUUL vape has the small, smooth shape of a computer USB, or pin drive. In fact, the device can be charged via a USB port on a laptop computer. And with about the same length as a pen or a cigarette, a JUUL vaporizer can fit easily into a pocket.
A JUUL vaping device, or vape, contains a one-time-use cartridge, known as a JUULpod, that is filled with liquid nicotine. When emptied, the liquid nicotine cartridge can be replaced.
A JUUL vape also includes the “e” element of a battery-powered coil. This is the reason behind such devices being called “e-cigarettes,” or “electronic cigarettes.”
When a vape user activates the heating of the coil, the coil cooks liquid nicotine until it reaches a temperature of around 338 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170 degrees Centigrade. Then the liquid nicotine becomes vapor, and the vapor can be inhaled by the user through a mouthpiece on one end of the JUUL.
This vapor is distinct from the smoke that is produced by the fire and burning of a traditional cigarette. Smokers inhale smoke. Those who vape, also known as vapers, do not. Vapers inhale vapor.
Thus, while smokers and vapers both receive nicotine, they receive it in their own way.
Who Makes JUUL?
Created in 2015, JUUL is the product of a vaping company named JUUL Labs, Inc. It was once a part of Pax Labs, an early manufacturer of vaping devices. But in 2017 JUUL Labs was spun off from Pax Labs to be its own separate company. Both are based in San Francisco, California.
JUUL vapes’ popularity skyrocketed. By the end of 2017, JUUL vapes had become the most widely used e-cig device in America. In fact, before the end of 2018 JUUL Labs had amassed nearly three-fourths of America’s booming e-cig market, which also includes more complicated and less popular vape pens.
JUUL Labs’ strength led to a $12.8 billion investment in it by the Altria Group, formerly known as the Philip Morris Companies. Altria is the parent company of Marlboro, by far the giant of the cigarette industry. On Dec. 20, 2018, Altria bought a stake of about one-third of JUUL Labs’ ownership. JUUL Labs is now estimated to be worth more than $38 billion.
Vaping, Tobacco Industries Link
This clearly shows a link between the vaping industry with its new products, which at first competed with traditional cigarettes, and long-standing tobacco companies known as “Big Tobacco,” which have made many billions of dollars selling old-style cigarettes for decades.
Altria and other tobacco sellers had tried to launch their own vape brands, but with little success. That’s why Altria moved to buy into JUUL Labs.
But that move came at the wrong time. In April of 2019, just four months after Altria bought its massive stake in JUUL Labs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched its probe into vaping after receiving reports of seizures, convulsions and other vape injuries.
“We have reports indicating that some people who use e-cigarettes, especially youth and young adults, are experiencing seizures following their use,” the FDA said. “Seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine poisoning and have been reported in scientific literature in relation to intentional or accidental swallowing of nicotine-containing e-liquids.”
Since the FDA warned in April of seizures and other potential health risks from using e-cigs, Altria has lost $31 billion in market value, Markets Insider reported on Sept. 20, 2019. “That translates to roughly one-third of Altria’s market value wiped out,” Market Insider said.
History of Vaping
Vaping history stretches back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians, who used hot stones to vaporize various herbs in the 5th Century BC.
In the 20th Century vaping evolved toward today’s e-cigs. First, Joseph Robinson conceived the idea of a smokeless cigarette in 1927. Then in 1963 Herbert Gilbert patented the idea of a non-smoking tobacco cigarette.
By the early 21st Century, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, motivated by his father’s death from lung cancer, produced the initial modern e-cigarette. E-cigs then were first marketed in Europe, and the first e-cigs appeared in the U.S. in 2007.
Initially, e-cigs or vapes were marketed as a means for adults who were addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes to wean themselves and quit smoking, or at least switch to a safer alternative. But that focus did not last. Soon, vaping’s biggest market became youths — in large part due to the devious marketing techniques of vape sellers.
Do Vapes Such as JUUL Target Teens, Children?
If you’re wondering whether vapes such as JUUL target teens and even younger children, wonder no more. JUUL clearly attempts to entice young, underage users by offering fruity flavors in the liquid cartridges. As for the sleek vaping devices, these can be easily concealed by children who do not wish their vaping to be known to parents or authorities.
The many vaping flavors designed to entice kids include chocolate, coffee, mango, mint, creme, fruit and candy. All are further enticements for young users.
JUUL’s marketing also has included ads showing young people enjoying its products in attractive settings, and it has relied heavily on social media — which youths dominate — to spread the word about JUUL products.
FDA Attacks Vape Marketing to Kids
According to a statement by acting FDA Commissioner Norman E. Sharpless, MD, “The FDA stands ready to accelerate the review of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products. And we remain committed to tackling the epidemic of youth vaping using all available regulatory tools at our disposal. We will continue to take vigorous enforcement actions aimed at ensuring e-cigarettes and other tobacco products aren’t being marketed to, or sold to, kids.”
He said the FDA also is launching its first “e-cigarette prevention TV advertisements educating kids about the dangers of e-cigarette use as part of “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign.”
Sharpless went on to say that while some vaping devices “may hold some promise in helping addicted adult smokers transition away from combustible tobacco to a potentially less harmful form of nicotine delivery, these products – like all tobacco products – pose risk, and should not be used by kids.
“Years of progress to combat youth use of tobacco – to prevent lifetimes of addiction to nicotine – is now threatened by an epidemic of e-cigarette use by kids.”
Whether aimed at children or adults, JUUL and other vaping sellers claim in their marketing that vaping is safer than traditional cigarettes. But they fail to mention many possible harmful vaping side effects.
As a result, the FDA has notified JUUL that since it lacks evidence to substantiate claims that its product is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, JUUL violates federal law. JUUL was told to provide such evidence to support such claims, which are widely used in its marketing efforts.
Indeed, while vaping may be safer than cigarette smoking in some ways, in other ways it is not, but instead causes injuries not associated with smoking. Also, children can become just as addicted to nicotine via vaping as via cigarettes, and perhaps even faster.
‘Hook Them While They’re Young’
Vape manufacturers’ strategy to “hook them while they’re young’ by targeting youths who can become addicted for life follows similar marketing strategies attempted by large tobacco companies with cigarettes for many years.
In 1996, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ruled that Reynolds Tobacco Company had illegally aimed at minors a cartoon-like “Joe Camel” advertising campaign to encourage smoking of Camel cigarettes. In an administrative complaint, the FTC said Reynolds had violated federal fair trade practice laws by promoting lethal and addictive products to children and adolescents who could not legally purchase or use it.
The CDC agrees that “Big Tobacco” has long targeted kids. “Scientific evidence shows that tobacco company advertising and promotion influences young people to start using tobacco,” the CDC says.
The CDC further found that the three most heavily advertised brands — Camel, Marlboro and Newport — were the preferred brands of cigarettes smoked by middle school and high school students in 2016.
As for vapes or e-cigs, though they were introduced ostensibly to help adult smokers quit smoking, or at least adopt a safer alternative, their market has increasingly become young users. This is in large part due to successful marketing campaigns which have glamorized vapes among youths and have downplayed — if not ignored — vapes’ serious side effects.
The CDC estimates that 3.6 million adolescents were vaping as of 2018.
How Much Do Youths Vape?
The Gallup polling organization reports that 9 percent of all adult Americans regularly or occasionally vape. But that rate more than doubles among Americans 18 to 29 years old.
According to tobacco adversarial group, Truth Initiative, in a study published in Tobacco Control, 15- to 17-year-olds are over 16 times more likely to be JUUL users than persons 25-34. That study named e-cigarettes such as JUUL and vape pens such as KandyPens Rubi and Suorin Drop as the most popular tobacco products among youths.
Truth Initiative also reports that the “epidemic” of vaping has been accelerated by JUUL’s high nicotine content.
“The device delivers nicotine up to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigarettes, increasing the potential for addiction,” it reports. “ Knowing that almost all smokers (98 percent) start by age 26, and nearly nine out of 10 adult smokers start smoking by age 18, it is it is especially important to prevent young people from starting a nicotine dependency at this vulnerable age.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics also calls vaping “dangerous, available and addicting” on its website HealthyChildren.org. It reminds parents that “e-cigarette use is never safe for youth, young adults, or pregnant and/or breastfeeding women.”
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study on Sept. 18, 2019 which showed that 25 percent of American high school seniors and 20 percent of 10th graders had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. Among eighth graders, almost 10 percent had vaped.
The report also indicated that high school seniors’ vaping had almost doubled from 2017 to 2018.
Thus, although e-cigs’ usage has remained stable, if not slightly declining, among the adults to which they originally were targeted, vaping has dramatically increased among youths.
This has reversed a sustained drop in young people’s use of tobacco products via cigarettes.
Almost 30 percent of high school seniors reported smoking cigarettes daily in 1976. Thanks in part to public awareness campaigns, 12th graders’ smoking had decreased to less than 4 percent in 2018. But at the same time, teens’ use of vaping devices was dramatically increasing.
It’s believed that as much as 95 percent of Americans who become addicted to tobacco products do so before they reach age 21. Now it’s vapes, rather than cigarettes, which are leading the way to such addiction at an early age.
‘JUULING,’ ‘Dripping’ Among Youths’ Vape Terms
Among vape terms, youths often refer to vaping with a JUUL device as “JUULing,” given the name of the most popular vaping product.
Also, about a fourth of youths who vape have tried “dripping.” This means that instead of using the vape’s mouthpiece to inhale, they drip the liquid nicotine onto a heat coil, which produces stronger and thicker vapor.
Will Vapes Be Banned?
Since flavors in e-cigs are believed to make them more popular with adolescents, the White House recently announced a proposal to ban flavored e-cigs, thus making them less enticing to youths.
Independently of that, the state of New York already has banned flavored e-cigarettes, and Michigan has approved a ban, but has not yet enacted it. California and Massachusetts also are considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
New Texas Smoking, Vaping Law Launches
As for Texas, the state is attempting to counter vaping companies’ marketing to children with a new law which went into effect on Sept. 1, 2019. The new Texas smoking and vaping law raises the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in traditional or vaping form from 18 years old to 21 years old.
Democrats in the Texas Legislature had tried for years to pass such a law but were thwarted by the Republican controlled legislative body. However, a movement to pass such a law gained momentum in 2017 when some influential Republicans joined the effort.
Seventeen other states also have raised the legal age to buy cigarettes or e-cig products since Hawaii became the first in 2016.
Texas’ age hike for smoking or vaping products is focused on sales, not use, and puts the burden for enforcement on sellers of such products.
In fact, the new Texas smoking and vaping law actually reduces the fine for children illegally possessing tobacco products from $250 to $100. Also, a youth’s record can be expunged when he or she reaches 21 years old.
Texas state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), lead author of the bill which became law in September, told the Dallas Morning News that raising the legal age should save thousands of lives. Since the law puts distance between minors and their peers who can legally smoke or vape, “just stretching it out those extra few years, the research believes will make a difference.”
Of course, such age-based laws don’t mean that youths won’t be able to obtain cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vaping devices such as JUUL. An older sibling or friend can make the initial purchase for them.
Also keep in mind that many underage youths order “e-juice” online, and online sources do not always require proof of age.
Has the FDA Approved JUUL?
As for the legality of JUUL and whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has approved JUUL, it has not. In fact, e-cig and vaping companies have been able to amass enormous profits so far without any federal regulatory oversight.
JUUL and other vaping companies originally were granted a 2022 deadline by the FDA to submit applications on why they should be allowed to remain selling e-cig products. But with the spike in youth vaping, that has changed — but with no thanks to the FDA.
Instead, a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland ordered in July of 2019 that makers and importers of e-cigs and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) submit applications for their currently marketed products to the FDA within 10 months. Finally the clock is truly ticking.
JUUL Side Effects Are Being Investigated
Beyond the FDA’s investigation of JUUL side effects, the U.S. House of Representatives began investigating JUUL on June 13, 2019. The House is exploring JUUL’s deal with Altria, as well as JUUL’s advertising, communications and social media practices.
Such JUUL investigations were underway even before the news broke in the summer of 2019 that hundreds of Americans had been injured and some of them had died from vaping-related illnesses and ailments.
JUUL has not been directly implicated in these deaths yet. In fact, so far vaping deaths have not been linked to a particular flavor or brand of e-cig or vaping device.
However, it is known that JUUL vapes contain a higher concentration of nicotine than would be found in traditional cigarettes, and nicotine poisoning, in itself, is dangerous.
JUUL Lawsuits Begin for Vape Injuries
Beyond the explosion of vape usage and the alarming rate at which America’s teens are being addicted, vape injuries and deaths are raising the prospect of JUUL lawsuits, or in general e-cig lawsuits, for severe vaping side effects.
Families who have suffered injury losses due to JUUL or other vape or e-cig products can seek payments to compensate them for their losses by means of such a vape lawsuit. Known as a product liability lawsuit, this complaint can target the company which makes and sells the defective product — in the case of JUUL vapes, JUUL Labs, Inc.
Beyond suing for vape injuries, the basis for such lawsuits also can include JUUL’s false advertising and marketing. That includes JUUL’s claims without evidence that JUUL is safer than cigarettes, and the maker’s failure to warn consumers about JUUL’s potential injuries and addictiveness.
JUUL lawsuits also have attacked the company’s marketing of its product to underage youths. An early JUUL Lawsuit filed in North Carolina focused on JUUL’s targeting of underage youths via flavored pods. In response, JUUL stopped selling some flavored pods in certain businesses, including gas stations.
JUUL lawsuits continue in Illinois and other states. And with Texas’ new vaping law in mind, a JUUL lawsuit can proceed in Texas.
What Payments Can a JUUL Lawsuit Deliver?
As for what payments a JUUL lawsuit can deliver for injured families, these can include compensatory money for:
- Hospital and medical expenses pertaining to the injury, including future treatment and addiction therapy,
- Physical and mental pain and suffering caused by the injury and its aftermath,
- Loss of wages, salary or income due to the injury,
- Punitive damages, in some cases, by which the court punishes the defendant for its product’s failures.
Get an Injury Lawyer for Your JUUL or Vape Lawsuit
You can get an injury lawyer for your JUUL or vape lawsuit by contacting the law firm of Jim Adler & Associates today. We can provide you with a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced vape injury lawyer for your case.
After you contact us, but before you commit to do anything, we can provide you a free and confidential legal review of your case. This will help you to size up your prospects for a successful JUUL lawsuit. Then you and your family can decide how you want to proceed.
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- Jayne Leonard, Medical News Today, “Can You Overdose on Too Much Nicotine?”; MedicalNewsToday.com, Oct. 6, 2019
- Science Direct, “Nitrosamines: An Overview”; ScienceDirect.com, 2008
- Mark L. Rubinstein, Kevin Delucchi, Neal L. Benowitz and Danielle E. Ramo; Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Adolescent Exposure to Toxic Volatile Organic Chemicals From E-Cigarettes”; AAP News, April, 2018
- Allysun Chiu, The Washington Post, “A Teen’s Injuries Looked Like He Was in a ‘High-Speed’ Crash. Instead, a Vape Pen Exploded In His Mouth”; The Washington Post, June 20, 2019
- FDA Statement on FDA’s investigation of e-cigarettes, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.gov, April 3, 2019
- Carmen Reinicke, Markets Insider, “Top Juul Investor Altria Has Seen $30 Billion Erased Since the FDA Launched a Vaping Investigation in April”; Markets.BusinessInsider.com, Sept. 20. 2019
- Christina Matthews, Vaping Daily, “Vaping — A Journey Through Its History”; VapingDaily.com, Feb. 23, 2017
- Truth Initiative, “New Study Reveals Teens 16 Times More Likely to Use Juul Than Older Age Groups”; TruthInitiative.org, Oct. 30, 2018
- Lauren McGaughy, The Dallas Morning News, “Texas Just Raised the Smoking Age to 21. Who Is Exempt and What Are the Penalties?”; DallasNews.com, Aug. 30, 2019