Electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, has increased dramatically in recent years. Consumers believe that e-cigarettes are safer than standard tobacco, but new reports suggest otherwise. A Drug and Device Watch, we have reported on JUUL health risks, lung illness, and the unethical marketing of e-cigarettes to teens. Now, it seems that JUUL is not the only e-cigarette manufacturer who will come under fire.
First Death Linked to E-Cigarette Use
Health officials in Illinois announced in August, 2019 that a patient died due to severe lung illness doctors believe is caused by e-cigarette use. The patient is one of the hundreds of people who have recently been hospitalized with severe lung illness after using e-cigarettes. This is the first death that is positively linked to e-cigarette use, or vaping.
Hundreds Hospitalized in Association with Vaping
Over the last several weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified over 500 people across 22 states who have become ill with a mysterious lung illness. The illness is now widely under investigation by both state and federal health officials. According to the CDC, many of the victims are teens and young adults, and many report using JUUL.
Federal officials are currently investigating JUUL health risks, marketing practices, and the safety of the product itself.
As the story has gained more attention, reports of the number of people hospitalized with e-cigarette related lung illness have doubled in the last week. In Illinois, at least 22 people ages 17 to 38 have sought treatment for symptoms of respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes. Twelve more individuals are under investigation by local health departments in Illinois and may or may not be part of the general nationwide outbreak.
Symptoms of the Mystery Illness
One of the frustrating elements of this outbreak of lung illness is the fact that many victims believe they are suffering from a simple medical condition like a cold, flu, or bronchitis. This means there could be many more illnesses due to vaping than the hundreds we already know.
Consumers should be aware of the symptoms of the illness doctors believe is due to vaping. All of the victims report similar symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath
- Some individuals have experienced vomiting and diarrhea
- All experienced symptoms worsening over a period of days or weeks before their admission to the hospital
JUUL Health Risks are a Major Concern
As more and more people develop the mysterious lung illness, health officials and critics have been taking a hard look at e-cigarettes. Officials are concerned about JUUL health risks in particular. JUUL comprises 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the U.S. The design of their devices, the flavors, and the marketing itself aggressively target teens and young adults.
Teens and young adults are becoming ill at an alarming rate, so JUUL is under intense scrutiny. In fact, the majority of cases of lung illness are among teens and young adults. The U.S. Surgeon General declared youth vaping to be an epidemic in December, 2018.
Vaping among high schoolers increases in popularity every year, jumping up 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. After a hard-won battle against the use of cigarettes among adolescents, anti-tobacco activists must be dismayed to find more than 27 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes regularly.
The Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults
The bottom line is that using e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that can harm adolescent brain development. Brain development continues through the early-to-mid twenties, and nicotine disrupts the process. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine.
Even more worrisome is that e-cigarettes can, and often do, contain other harmful substances besides nicotine. The FDA does not currently require e-cigarette manufacturers to list their ingredients on the label. Teens and young adults, and their parents for that matter, simply cannot know exactly what the user is inhaling into their body.
Independent studies into the actual ingredients in an e-cigarette cartridge or pod reveal that most e-cigarettes contain substances that at least are irritating to the lungs, and at worst are explicitly dangerous.
Many e-cigarette products are small and easily concealable. Many of them look like a small, innocuous household item like a USB drive or a pen. Their easily concealable nature has given rise to a serious problem among teens who clandestinely vape throughout the school day. Not only are they developing a nicotine addiction, but many are also using drugs in their e-cigarette in an easily hidden and odorless delivery system.
Nearly 500 Cases, but No Clear Cause
Despite the rapidly rising number of victims, officials say they don’t know whether e-cigarette devices themselves caused the illness or whether they could be caused by contaminants or specific ingredients users are inhaling. The consensus seems to be that patients have described vaping many different substances before becoming sick, including:
- Products containing marijuana
- Do-it-yourself concoctions, commonly called “home brews”
Many of the victims also report vaping products that contain THC. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces the intoxicating feeling. Despite all of these converging fact patterns and similarities, officials are not ready to say whether these illnesses have a common cause or whether they are different diseases that have similar symptoms.
Even more perplexing, is the sudden surge of illness in recent weeks, especially since various forms of e-cigarette devices have been in use by consumers for more than a decade. Officials from the CDC hypothesize that users may have been experiencing illness in isolated cases, but federal agencies were not capturing a pattern.
Regarding what specifically about these products that could be making people sick, there are competing theories. Some substances in e-cigarette aerosol are known to be potentially harmful to respiratory health. Most brands contain ultrafine particles and flavorings such as diacetyl, which are known to cause respiratory illness.
What the CDC Does Know
All the CDC can say for sure at this time is that all of the victims are e-cigarette users. Furthermore, the agency can rule out an infectious disease as the cause. The CDC is requesting physicians throughout the country to report any suspected related cases to their state health office, including information about what kind of e-cigarette the patient was using.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also launched an investigation with regard to faulty e-cigarettes and is asking the public to report adverse events resulting from e-cigarette use. Specifically, the FDA is investigating JUUL health risks due to so many people reporting use.
Growing in Popularity Despite the Risks
E-cigarettes have enjoyed ever-increasing popularity over the last decade. Consumers do not seem to mind that there has been little research on their long-term effects. Millions of people in the United States use e-cigarettes, and they are most popular among young adults.
The leading brand of e-cigarette, JUUL, says it is closely monitoring the reports of illnesses, but what makes the JUUL brand a particular concern? Drug and Device Watch has learned the following:
- Like other e-cigarettes, JUUL is a device that runs on a battery. It heats a liquid containing nicotine, which produces a vapor that users inhale.
- JUUL is one of the most easily concealed brands of e-cigarettes. It is shaped like a USB drive.
- All JUUL products have a higher level of nicotine than other e-cigarettes. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. That translates to around 200 cigarette puffs per pod.
- It is not unusual for users to consume more than one JUUL pod in a sitting.
- JUUL brand vape pods are very popular with school-age children.
- JUUL is the top selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S.
What to Do if You Experience Vaping Related Illness
Health officials urge the public to take the outbreak of vaping related illness seriously. The lung illness perplexing doctors across the U.S. is a matter of public safety at this point. With around 500 people ill, and now reports of deaths, consumers must be diligent in their efforts.
Parents need to talk to their teens about the risk of vaping. JUUL specifically is be trendy and “cool”, but the JUUL health risks are not.
Anyone who experiences chest pain or difficulty breathing after vaping should seek immediate medical attention. The CDC is urging healthcare providers to ask patients complaining of sudden respiratory illness about a history of vaping and e-cigarette use.
If you or one of your children are battling vaping related illness, also consider contacting Drug and Device Watch. Our JUUL addiction attorney is helping clients just like you stand up against the unethical and unsafe practices that e-cigarette manufacturers attempt. We are helping clients with claims of addiction, illness, or death related to JUUL.
To request a free legal consultation with one of our attorneys, call Drug and Device Watch toll free at 1-888-458-6825. You can also contact us online via our online form.