Health officials have reported hundreds of cases of lung injury connected to vaping. These reports have included at least 450 serious cases of vape-related lung illness in at least 35 states, including six deaths. Vape-related lung illnesses have included teens, adults and even older Americans.
Though the specific causes are not yet known, people or loved ones of those who were hospitalized, placed on life-support or who died due to a vape lung injury may be considering filing lawsuits.
Vaping in the U.S.
More than 9 million people use e-cigarettes on a regular basis and more than 3.6 million teens are estimated to “vape”. E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 and were originally intended to help wean smokers off tobacco, but in many cases, ended up making kids dependent on nicotine.
E-cigarettes have been touted as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking and may be more socially acceptable in some situations due to odor and mess associated with ash. Vape pens and e-cigarettes are available in a number of “flavors” which include candy, desert and fruit flavors along with more traditional “tobacco” or “menthol” flavors. The flavors available have become a major factor for criticism as teens report that flavors of vaping are attractive and cite them as a reason for them to start vaping.
There are dozens or more of different types and brands of e-cigarettes, vape pens and vaporizers. The most popular type amongst teens and the brand which has received the most attention is the “Juul”. Juul Labs has been subject to numerous warnings regarding their marketing activities but have not been associated directly with the latest round of lung illnesses.
In general, e-cigarettes or vapes work in a similar manner. Inside the e-cigarette or vape, flavored e-liquid – which may or may not contain nicotine – is heated and converted into a vapor or mist which can be inhaled. The object of the design was for vaping to look and feel like smoking, with no flame or burning required.
Vaping Lung Injury Causes
Substances that are safe to eat or apply to the skin are not necessarily safe to inhale, particularly if heated. Adding substances like Vitamin E acetate or flavorings can increase the risk posed to the lungs.
CDC officials stated in September 6 news conference that definitive causes have not been established for the recent increase in lung illnesses and deaths. Federal health officials are recommending that people stop using e-cigarettes, noting that vaping may be particularly harmful to teens, young adults and pregnant women
New York State Department of Health is investigating high levels of Vitamin E acetate as a possible cause. Vitamin E acetate is a dietary supplement intended to be used topically or orally. Vitamin E acetate can be toxic if inhaled but has been found in some vape products containing cannabis.
Officials state that this is only one avenue of study and that it is too early to determine the cause. FDA is testing more than 120 products for a range of chemicals, including nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), pesticides and opioids amongst others. Results so far have indicated only that no one substance or compound has been found in all samples.
Types of Illness Related to Vaping
All told, there may be hundreds of lung illnesses related to vaping. At least 450 cases of injury and 6 deaths have been reported in 35 states and territories in the U.S.
Of 53 example cases reported in Wisconsin and Illinois, about one-third needed ventilator support. Most of these patients were male and under 18. About 60% had used a vape containing nicotine, 80% had used THC and half reported that they had used both but officials have not determined whether the pattern holds across all illnesses.
A number of reports have stated that the illnesses caused development of a type of pneumonia that is non-infectious. In fact, vape lung injury may cause multiple types of pneumonia including:
- Acute eosinophilic pneumonia which is caused by a buildup of white blood cells in the lungs due to inflammatory or immune response
- Lipoid pneumonia which is caused by inhaling vapor containing fat or oil which collects in the lungs
- Bacterial pneumonia due to severe respiratory infection
Patients or health professionals have also reported cases of “blistered lung”. When severe, pneumonia or lung injury may lead to lung collapse or respiratory failure and require the patient be placed in a medically induced coma and/or on life support. In at least six cases, patients have died due to their lung injury.
Vape-related Lung Injury Lawsuits
The FDA is authorized to regulate e-cigarettes, but public criticism has led to delay of new regulations. At the same time, manufacturers have taken advantage of lack of regulations, and introduced many new products which contain nicotine or in some areas, THC.
Even though some states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, allowing for THC oil sales, because it is still illegal under federal law, little research has been done and products have not been subjected to scrutiny required for other supplements or health treatments.
In addition to these concerns, teen vaping has exploded. One company, Juul Labs, has been warned by the FDA for improper marketing practices. The company was accused of marketing their products to minors with to colorful, glossy ads and videos which made vaping look “fun”. Juul has reportedly put processes into place to prevent minors from smoking but the name “Juul” has become synonymous with vaping for thousands of teens and young adults.
The CDC and FDA officials have asked people to stop vaping, but several government agencies are taking further action. Flavored e-cigarettes have been banned in Michigan with similar bans under consideration in other states and by the federal government, but many people have already been harmed.
For those who have already suffered lung injury due to vaping, medical costs and other expenses may be high. People or loved ones of those who were diagnosed with a lung injury, required hospitalization, were placed on a ventilator or who died due to e-cigarette use or vaping, should seek legal advice.
If you or a loved one has experienced a respiratory or lung illness, you may be eligible for compensation in future legal action. Contact Seeger Weiss for a free consultation.
- As Deaths Related To Mysterious Vaping-Linked Lung Illness Continue To Climb, Here’s What You Need To Know, Kaiser Health News (09/2019)
- As Vaping Lung Injuries Grow, Doctors Seek Answers, WebMD (08/2019)