If you’ve been following the news lately, you’re certainly aware that hospitalizations for serious lung diseases linked to vaping and e-cigarettes have reached epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of January 2020, 2711 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) have been reported across the country. Sixty deaths have also been confirmed in 27 states including New York and New Jersey. While it’s good news that the CDC says emergency room visits are declining, many people continue to vape despite the dangers. Below I’ll tell you more about the health consequences of vaping and what New York and New Jersey lawmakers are doing to protect the public.
Background on EVALI
EVALI is a lung disease experts say is caused by the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Many people who use vaping products are unaware of the serious repercussions of using these devices because symptoms of EVALI, like shortness of breath and chest pain tend to come on slowly, but eventually lead to severe breathing problems that often require hospitalization.
Vaping products are so damaging in part because they work by heating up nicotine into an aerosol that is inhaled. The tiny particles penetrate the lungs where they cause increasing irritation and damage to the lungs. While experts have long pointed to addictive nicotine as the major problem with vaping (nicotine has been linked to cardiovascular damage, heightened risk of heart attack, coronary artery disease, and stroke), these products have also been found to contain dangerous heavy metals like lead.
In addition to the EVALI risk these products pose, e-cigarettes contain volatile organic compounds that can combust, resulting in severe chemical burns and disfigurement, often of the hands and face. The journal Tobacco Control reported that between 2015 and 2017, over 2000 patients visited U.S. emergency rooms after being burned or injured by e-cigarette explosions. Despite the serious risks these products pose, companies continue to manufacture and market them throughout the country.
Vaping and E-Cigarettes Marketed to Teens
One of the most upsetting parts about the epidemic of vaping hospitalizations is that device companies have used the same marketing tactics that big tobacco once used with great success: focusing their ads on teens and leading young people to believe that vaping is a “cool” and safe alternative to cigarettes. According to a 2019 National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, over 25% of high school seniors said they had vaped in the last month. 20% of tenth graders and around 10% of eighth graders also admitted to vaping in the last month. Although it is illegal in New York to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 21, this has not stopped the companies from targeting young people and it has not stopped young people from suffering serious consequences.
New Jersey and New York Lawmakers Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes
In November 2019, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced that she was filing a lawsuit against Juul, the country’s biggest vape brand, saying that they started the teen vaping epidemic. James said Juul targeted kids in their misleading advertising, which suggested that vaping is safer than smoking. Launch parties in the Hamptons were among the company’s major promotional tactics, and Juul representatives even visited New York City high schools as part of their now-defunct youth prevention program, where they told students their products were safe. The lawsuit sought to forbid Juul from targeting minors and pay fines for a variety of allegations.
The lawsuit was quickly followed by New York City Council approval of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes which were designed to appeal to young people. The 90-day ban, which began at the end of November, was recently renewed for another 90 days.
In January 2020, New Jersey followed New York’s lead, when the Senate passed a bill prohibiting sales and distribution of any electronic smoking device with a distinct flavor or scent. New Jersey legislation also imposes strict finds of $250 for first offenders, $500 for second offenders, and $1000 for subsequent offenses. Once the legislation is signed by the governor, it will go into effect in 90 days.
In addition to local lawmakers’ efforts to put a stop to vape-related illness, the CDC and FDA have made several recommendations. They say people should avoid vaping products and e-cigarettes that contain THC, and that adults using vaping products as a way to stop smoking should talk to your doctor about safer methods of smoking cessation.
Individual Lawsuits on the Rise
In addition to several class action lawsuits against these companies, individuals who have been harmed by e-cigarettes and vaping devices are beginning to file lawsuits against the vape and e-cigarette companies that caused their injuries. If you have been injured by this technology, working with a lawyer may be the best way to recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
If you are in need of legal help after an injury due to vaping or another product, Buttafuoco and Associates may be able to help. Contact us for a free consultation on your case at 1-800-NOW-HURT.