“Vaping” was originally hailed by its supporters as a way to reduce the damage to the lungs caused by smoking, since vaping mixtures contain considerably fewer than the 7,000 chemicals present in tobacco. Critics, however, allege that is a way of enticing children into smoking tobacco using vaping as a gateway. Indeed, over a third of high school seniors have reported vaping, and the U.S. Surgeon General says that there is an “e-cigarette epidemic among youth.”
Many people do vape to quit smoking tobacco, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most of these people end up using both. A 2016 study from UC San Diego found that even after two years, nearly half of all original “dual users” had not stopped using either product. The net effect, according to a 2018 study from UC San Francisco, is that dual users typically don’t reduce their cigarette use by vaping.
The two main dangers of e-cigarette use are the risk of vaping-related illnesses, which are akin to the dangers involved in smoking tobacco, and the risk of vaping device explosions.
It would be wonderful if vaping operated as a clean and healthy alternative to smoking. A 2019 study, however, reported that e-cigarette users face:
Additionally, as of August 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had collected 127 reports of vaping-related seizures or neurological symptoms that have occurred since 2010. These findings are disturbing because, just as the case with tobacco in the 1950s, most of the public is unaware of the risk and the manufacturers and distributors of the product cannot be counted on to warn them.
While vaping does not involve the smoking or inhalation of tobacco per se, it does involve the inhalation of the following chemicals, among others:
A long-term tobacco user, who has been addicted to nicotine for years and turns to vaping as a way of reducing the damage to his lungs, might feel he has little to lose by vaping. But someone who is not yet addicted to nicotine has a lot more to lose. This is particularly true of adolescents, because nicotine can more easily rewire an adolescent’s brain. The result is often years or even a lifetime addiction to tobacco products, including traditional cigarettes.
When someone gets drunk, we do not normally describe it as “alcohol poisoning”; likewise, when someone smokes a cigarette or vapes, we don’t normally refer to it as “nicotine poisoning.” Nevertheless, just as there is such a thing as alcohol poisoning, there is such a thing as nicotine poisoning. In other words, it is possible to overdose on nicotine.
Most e-liquids contain nicotine concentrations of two percent – but others contain as much as 10 percent nicotine. Furthermore, liquid nicotine can be absorbed by the body far more quickly than the nicotine found in tobacco. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that in 2018, the nation’s poison control centers reported treating over 2,500 cases involving e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine.
The most common symptoms of nicotine poisoning include:
Vape pens and e-cigarettes use lithium batteries that are prone to explode, and the risk is substantial. In addition to the significant likelihood of an explosion, the damage to your body could be disproportionate to the size of the explosion. When an e-cigarette battery explodes, it may be inches from your face.
The typical injuries caused by exploding vaping devices include:
At least one person has been killed by a vaping device explosion when an explosion shot shrapnel into his head and started a fire that burned his house down.
Medical expenses can be costly due to the need for hospitalization and surgery. The emotional cost of the pain, suffering, and sometimes permanent facial disfigurement cannot be calculated. But inevitably it is, down to the last cent, when an explosion victim wins a products liability lawsuit on this basis.
The federal government has been slow to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping devices. In fact, the FDA did not even gain the authority to regulate in this area until 2016. FDA regulation can affect future vaping lawsuits, even in state court, because it can provide a standard by which liability can more easily be determined.
In 2018, the FDA launched a crackdown on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors as well as the distribution of free samples to people of any age. The Trump administration, however, has been delaying the enforcement of new standards. Standards such as the addition of addictiveness warnings, information on the exact ingredients contained in e-cigarettes, and the labeling of vaping mixtures as “light,” “low,” or “mild.”
None of this is surprising since Trump-nominated FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb (recently retired) once served on the board of directors of an e-cigarette company and retained stock in the company even after he was nominated for commissioner. To a significant extent, the immediate future of e-cigarette litigation hinges on political developments.
E-cigarette lawsuits have been proliferating rapidly over the past few years – nationwide, over 100 battery explosion lawsuits were filed in 2015 alone, for example. The number is steadily rising, and it doesn’t even include lawsuits filed over vaping-related illnesses. Since the latter category of injury could take years or even decades to manifest itself, a dramatic long-term increase in vaping lawsuits seems reasonably likely. The following are two examples:
E-cigarette product liability lawsuits tend to cluster around the following claims:
The potential for compensation could be exceptionally high in some cases – the wrongful death of a young adult, for instance, or facial disfigurement that results in humiliation and emotional suffering.
In a 1998 settlement, several giant tobacco companies agreed to pay 46 US states and six other US jurisdictions over $200 billion in order to compensate them for smoking-related healthcare costs that they incurred on behalf of their residents. This was the largest civil settlement in US history. Could e-cigarette manufacturers face a similar fate? Only time will tell.
If you have been injured by a vaping device, or if you are suffering symptoms that can be traced to vaping, call Berkowitz Hanna today or simply contact us online for a free initial consultation. We serve clients from throughout Connecticut from our offices in Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, and Shelton, and we charge nothing unless we win your case.