New research shows that teens are using electronic cigarettes (also known as “e-cigs”) to inhale marijuana. While this finding may not surprise everyone, the rate at which teens are inhaling marijuana with e-cigs and the lack of warnings from electronic cigarette manufacturers may be cause for concern.
A published study conducted at Yale University found that Connecticut high school students were using e-cigs to vaporize marijuana at rates 27 times higher than adults. This equates to 5.5 percent of students surveyed who were “vaping” marijuana. Of the 30 percent of students who had used marijuana, 18 percent had tried vaping the drug.
As noted by the study’s lead author, “The rates were a little bit surprising, especially in a state where it’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes to kids.”
Although many e-cig manufacturers claim that vaporizing is safer than smoking, the study’s author says that these claims are not supported by medical studies or clinical trials. With regard to marijuana specifically, she noted that “vaporized hash oil or wax can have THC concentrations four to 30 times as high as dried cannabis.” Ingestion of THC can lead to difficulty controlling body movements and impaired judgment – which can put teens (and others) at risk for causing accidents and suffering serious injuries. It can also create a greater risk of lung infection.
While underage smoking and marijuana use are important concerns in their own right, the fact that e-cig manufacturers may be making false claims about the safety of their products is also serious cause for concern. But, the good news is that the law provides remedies for victims of manufacturers’ unfounded claims and misleading product labeling.
Individuals who purchase products are entitled to rely on the representations that manufacturers make on the products’ labels and packaging. This includes relying on any warnings (or lack thereof) about the dangers of using the product. If a manufacturer misrepresents that a product is safe (for example, that using an electronic cigarette is safer than smoking), its failure to provide adequate warnings can be grounds for a claim based on product liability.
The risk in failure-to-warn cases is that purchasers of dangerous products tend to assume (and rightfully so) that products are safe when they don’t come with warnings. As a result, manufacturers are held to a high standard when it comes to accurately labeling their products. In fact, consumers don’t even need to prove that the manufacturer negligently or intentionally mislabeled its products. In failure-to-warn cases, all they need to show is that the products were in fact inadequately labeled and that this led to their personal injuries.