Electronic cigarettes are leading to acute lung injuries.

A recent phenomenon—electronic cigarette smoking, also known as “vaping”—is endangering the health of American young people, and has taken the lives of at least 68 individuals, according to statistics released February 4, 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale. The process produces vapor, not smoke. The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinoid (CBD) oils, flavorings, and many other substances and additives. A related practice known as “dabbing”—super-heating a sticky oil or wax of concentrated THC extracted from cannabis (marijuana), and inhaling the vapors produced by this process—is also popular.

The vaping threat has been monitored by health-related entities and university researchers for almost a decade. In 2018, 3.6 million high school students—about 20%—regularly “vaped.” Studies indicate that vaping is surging among people within this age group, and has hit record highs. Vaping-related pulmonary injury has been reported worldwide, but the majority of publicized cases are in the U.S. (possibly because U.S. health agencies track these illnesses more closely).

The CDC has designated vaping-related lung illness as EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping product use Associated Lung Illness). It is also known as VALI (Vaping-Associated Lung Injury) and VAPI (Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Injury).

Vaping-related lung illness progresses swiftly, is difficult to diagnose, and has no known cure.

According to the CDC, as of February 4, 2020, there were 2,758 recorded cases of vaping-associated lung illnesses among those who were hospitalized in all 50 states. Vaping resulted in the deaths of people between 15 and 75 years of age. According to the CDC, the median age of EVALI victims who died was 24 years old.

The symptoms of EVALI are similar to symptoms associated with the flu or pneumonia. These similarities have made it difficult to diagnose EVALI. Currently, there is no specific test for EVALI. The CDC has identified symptoms that could indicate EVALI:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight Loss

Although cigarette smoking is still considered more dangerous in the long term than e-cigarette use, the effects of EVALI can be severe and a person afflicted with EVALI generally becomes ill quickly. There are treatments, such as administration of corticosteroids, that are helpful when one has an EVALI diagnosis, but there is currently no foolproof manner of treating or curing the illness.

Many people who vape (“vapers”) are exposed to nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco. The vapor in e-cigarettes can lead to cancer and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, teenagers who vape are more likely to become cigarette smokers, even though many never smoked cigarettes before taking up vaping.

Vitamin E acetate: the sole culprit, or one of many?

Vitamin E acetate has been identified as one of the possible causes of EVALI in “vapers.” The chemical was found in 48 of 51 samples of lung fluid taken from people with vaping-related illness, while none was found in a healthy comparison group.

Vitamin E acetate is a synthetic form of vitamin E, which is safe to use in skin creams and nutritional supplements. However, this chemical is not safe to inhale. Vitamin E acetate is sticky and thick, like honey. After being inhaled, it can remain in the lungs, interfering with normal lung functioning.

Both black market and legitimate cannabis suppliers have been known to use vitamin E acetate in the processing of their products. However, the Ohio Department of Commerce has asserted that the vaping products that are legally manufactured and sold in Ohio as medical marijuana do not contain vitamin E acetate. See wlwt.com/article/cdc-identification-of-possible-vaping-illness-culprit-could-ease-minds-of-ohio-medical-marijuana-patients/29743244 (Nov. 8, 2019).

The number of vaping-related lung injury cases is slowly declining.

In February 2020, the CDC announced that there has been a gradual decline in the number of EVALI cases, after peaking in September 2019. However, new cases of vaping-related lung injury are reported every day. The CDC has identified some major causes for the decline in acute, vaping-related lung injury cases:

  • The removal of vitamin E acetate from some vaping products
  • Increased public awareness of vaping risks
  • Law enforcement efforts to stop the sale of illicit products

However, state health departments and other agencies continue to report new cases to the CDC and samples for testing are still being taken from identified EVALI victims, to evaluate various chemicals associated with the vaping process.

Families are beginning to ask questions.

There is a growing consensus that someone should be held accountable for the serious lung injuries suffered by vape users, many of whom are minors. Vaping poses severe risks of lung injuries, seizures, strokes, and even death among EVALI patients. Vaping also tends to worsen preexisting conditions such as asthma.

Adult victims of vaping and parents of child victims are beginning to file lawsuits against JUUL Labs, a company that produces vaping products, and similar manufacturers, alleging not only that their product is inherently dangerous, but also (1) that these businesses failed to warn consumers of the dangers of vaping products, and (2) that they targeted children and teenagers in marketing these products.

People affected by vaping products maintain that these companies acted negligently and deceptively because company officials were aware of the science that was increasingly revealing the extent of harm and injuries caused by vaping.

If you or a loved one is a victim of vaping-related lung injury, you should reach out to a full-service law firm with demonstrated experience in both personal injury and product liability law, and the resources to fully develop and pursue your claim to judgment.

At Slater & Zurz, we have experience handling personal injury and product liability claims. We know how to build cases involving the often devastating consequences of defective products, and to ensure that all relevant evidence is gathered, analyzed, and presented in a persuasive way to manufacturers and their counsel, insurance adjusters, and, when necessary, judges and juries. Call or email our team to schedule a free consultation, and we will assess your claim and let you know our thoughts about how to proceed.

Vaping is not highly regulated.

Vaping is not as highly regulated in Ohio as it is in other states. In October 2019, the Tobacco 21 law went into effect in Ohio. It is now a misdemeanor to sell vaping devices or vaping liquid to a person under 21. A few Ohio cities have banned vaping in bars, restaurants and workplaces, but overall, federal restrictions are more stringent.

Since 2018, federal law has mandated that all vaping products containing nicotine include a warning about the addictive chemical. Even for adults, both federal and Ohio laws ban e-cigarettes containing nicotine with fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavoring. Menthol and tobacco flavors remain on the market.

Vaping has its defenders.

Many who support vaping—the vaping industry, vapers, and others—argue that vaping serves some beneficial purposes:

  • The practice has allowed people to quit or curtail cigarette smoking.
  • The potential health effects of vaping are less damaging than any health problems experienced by someone who has smoked for several years.
  • Vaping devices give the user control over nicotine input and vapor output.

Whether vaping causes more harm than good—or vice versa—has yet to be seen.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with vaping-related lung injury, trust an experienced law firm dedicated to seeking compensation for victims who suffered personal injuries after using a defective product.

Attorney Jim Slater, the managing partner of Slater & Zurz LLP, began his legal career over 40 years ago by insisting that a business client disclose and eliminate a potentially lethal defect in its products—even though taking that position could have cost him his job.

More recently, he has worked with other law firms seeking compensation for victims of “C-8,” a lethal substance that Dow Chemical released into rivers and streams from which drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia originates.

At Slater & Zurz LLP, we take your health and safety seriously. We have a proven record of success in handling personal injury and product liability cases.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a vaping-related lung injury, you can count on us to fully assess your claim, answer your questions, and advise you concerning the best way to proceed. Call or email the dedicated professionals on our team for a free consultation. We’re here to serve your legal needs with unwavering dedication and the drive to win for you.