Which is healthier, smoking or vaping?
This question has been a major point of contention among consumers, healthcare professionals, and child welfare advocates ever since the introduction of e-cigarettes in the early 2000s. Sellers and users of e-cigarettes often tout them as a clean, miracle alternative to traditional cigarettes, the dangers of which have been well documented for decades. Some smokers and nonsmokers alike have long been skeptical of these claims, however, questioning whether users are simply swapping one deadly habit for another.
Today, in 2019, the smoking vs. vaping debate isn’t looking too good for the vaping side. Public outrage has been rightfully growing as more and more e-cigarette users manifest serious and sometimes deadly symptoms, and vaping supply companies are facing a wave of product liability lawsuits that may have been a long time in the making.
If you’re one of the many consumers who’ve suffered serious vaping injuries, the Stoddard Firm is standing by to help you hold e-cigarette suppliers responsible for their wrongfully advertised and hazardous products.
E-Cigarettes Were Supposed to Make People Healthier, Not Spark a Public Health Crisis
E-cigarettes are small, battery-operated, handheld devices that use heat to aerosolize liquid for the user to inhale. Because e-cigarettes produce vapor rather than smoke, using one is colloquially known as “vaping.” Most are reusable and work with liquid cartridges that users can buy from drug stores, smoke shops, and dispensaries, as well as less reputable sources.
The most common active ingredients included in e-cigarette liquid cartridges are nicotine (the psychoactive compound found in tobacco) and THC (the psychoactive compound found in marijuana). Many formulas also include flavors, solvents, and other additives.
After some initial public optimism that vaping might lead to a healthier world, the cost of trusting this less-regulated cousin of the cigarette has recently made itself known in the most tragic of ways, with a string of deaths and debilitating medical complications.
As of October 29th, 2019, the CDC has recorded 1,888 serious lung injuries and 37 confirmed deaths associated with vaping. The injuries have been spread across 49 states, all except Alaska, prompting responses at every level of government.
The governor of Massachusetts has declared an official public health emergency. Oregon’s governor has attempted to address the issue by temporarily banning flavored nicotine vape products, but been overruled at the appeals court level. Los Angeles is considering a ban that would remove all vape products from local shelves until they receive FDA approval — a process that vape products from before 2016 have been exempt from, pending a deadline next year.
The federal government is now conducting hearings in search of a solution, while industry representatives argue that bans will only fuel the black market. Complicated as the issue may be, one thing is clear: vape products are killing people, and the companies that profit off of them have a responsibility to stop it.
Vaping-Related Health Problems Can Come on Suddenly
Everyone knows that smoking is deadly, and while vaping may eliminate the carcinogenic tar found in combustible tobacco, it can deliver even higher levels of nicotine along with other dangerous chemicals.
The danger of vaping is not just a cumulative shortening of the lifespan, waiting to take its final toll on some abstract date in a person’s future, however. Unlike the slow deterioration and elevated risk of illness associated with cigarette smoking, vaping can cause acute lung injury and sudden death regardless of how long a person has been doing it, for reasons that are not yet fully understood.
Of the patients seriously injured or killed thus far in the ongoing crisis, 79% were under the age of 35, with the youngest just 13 years old. Because these extraordinarily premature deaths and overnight health issues are so atypical among smoking casualties, victims and their families often don’t understand what’s happening to them at first.
A quick response is vital to surviving a vaping injury, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs, especially if there’s someone in your life who vapes. If you or a loved one have been using an e-cigarette, seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following signs:
- Newly developed cough, chest pain, or difficulty getting enough oxygen
- Unexplained fever or chills
- Digestive distress, including nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, or stomachache
These symptoms can develop over a matter of days, or they may take weeks and be accompanied by rapid weight loss. Left untreated, they can escalate to lung failure.
The Deaths Didn’t Start in 2019
This alarming rash of vaping-related fatalities and injuries seems to be a fairly recent development, leading many to question what may have changed in the vaping product supply line. The majority of those affected appear to have used marijuana-based vaping cartridges acquired from friends, unlicensed dealers, and other illicit sources, so new practices in the illegal marijuana trade may be partly to blame.
However, deaths have been linked to store-bought products as well, and some possible vaping injuries date back further than this year’s crisis.
In California, one 18-year-old user of popular Juul brand vaping products died in his sleep in August of 2018, showing signs of lung failure. His mother had the unwelcome honor of filing Juul’s first wrongful death suit. The year before that, another young man in New York suffered a hemorrhagic stroke after using Juul products, surviving with injuries that include — according to his own ongoing suit against Juul — left side paralysis and impaired vision and speech.
It’s not clear whether these were early glimpses of the same problem that has now killed so many others, or if they might be isolated cases of vaping causing harm in other ways.
Even Illicit Products May Be Benefitting Identifiable Companies
The heavy involvement of illegal and unofficial vaping products in the recent crisis has made pursuing justice for the victims more complicated than it might be if the deadly products were all easily traceable to a single negligent company. One CDC investigation found that two-thirds of the seemingly tainted vape cartridges in one sample group had been sold under the brand name “Dank Vapes,” a counterfeit label used to hide the origin of unlicensed marijuana products. Other fake brands exist for the same purpose, though Dank Vapes is the most prominent.
No one knows exactly where these products come from, but by testing their contents, the CDC has identified a common ingredient that may be causing or contributing to the lung injuries: vitamin E. Although harmless when ingested or applied topically, the limited available evidence suggests that vitamin E oil may be dangerous to inhale. It was even implicated in a case of pneumonia from almost 20 years ago, before the advent of e-cigarettes, in which a patient had been improvising a form of vaping at home.
In spite of the substance never having been approved for inhalation, multiple real companies have been selling it as a vape “thickener” — a filler used to dilute THC or nicotine oil. These kinds of ingredients are highly appealing to illicit dealers who do not conform to any purity or potency testing standards, and the New York State Health Department has already subpoenaed three companies known to sell the vape thickener.
This is a sensible step toward addressing the problem and ensuring accountability for any known entities that may be profiting from it. However, the CDC warns that there is not yet enough information to confirm that vitamin E is the cause of the crisis, or even that there is a single cause. Until the broad range of victims and circumstances can be explained, it’s not safe to trust any vaping product, whether legitimate or unlicensed, THC-based or nicotine-based.
Older Nicotine Users Are at Risk Too
Before the more urgent dangers of vaping came to light, most of the controversy surrounding vaping technology revolved around its appeal for young people. This has been a major focus of several of the recent lawsuits against Juul specifically, including one regarding lung damage to an Illinois teen this year.
The introduction of e-cigarettes came at a time when youth smoking was at a record low, and this new technology has created a huge resurgence of nicotine use. Vaping is still on the rise among young people as of the most recent data, with overall e-cigarette usage doubling in the past two years alone.
An investigation by Stanford Research into Juul’s early marketing strategies strongly suggests that their products’ popularity with formerly nonsmoking teenagers is no accident. In the wake of the recent tragedies, Juul has deleted much of its social media presence — a move interpreted by some as an attempt to deter teen buyers, and by others as an attempt to destroy evidence of targeting teens in the first place.
Regardless, even if one accepts Juul’s claims, and the claims of other e-cigarette companies, that their products are intended solely as a safe alternative for existing, adult cigarette smokers, the “safe” part of their mission statement still seems to be wishful thinking at best.
In Nebraska in May, early in the surge of vaping deaths, a 68-year-old lifelong cigarette smoker died of acute respiratory failure consistent with vaping injuries rather than typical smoking damage. At the well-meaning encouragement of his family, the man had recently switched to vaping in the hope of extending his life. He fit precisely into Juul’s stated target market, bought Juul and other respected brand name products from his local Walgreens and Walmart, and is not believed to have used any unlicensed or marijuana-based products of any kind. Yet he ended up another statistic in the vaping death epidemic anyway.
The Stoddard Firm Has Experience Holding Predatory Companies Accountable
If you’ve been severely injured or lost a loved one due to dangerous vaping products, The Stoddard Firm can help you claim the compensation you deserve. We’ll help you prove that vaping was the cause of your injuries, identify the companies that participated in passing off toxic ingredients as safe, and explain how many ways they should have known better.
As our client, your recovery is our first priority, and we’ll fight for every penny you need to cover not just your medical expenses but the cost of putting your life back together as thoroughly as you can. We’ll also look into the possibility of punitive damages — an additional sum on top of the actual damages in a specific case, intended to make indifference to public safety as unprofitable as possible for the perpetrator.
We believe in using the law not only to set things right for our own clients, but to create a world less rewarding of corporate greed, thereby protecting others in the future.
To discuss your case with one of our experts and learn more about how we can help, give us a call at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat function today!