In recent months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been conducting an ongoing investigation of the rising number of vaping-related lung disease patients and deaths ravaging the nation. Cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or EVALI, were originally reported in March 2019, and have since spread to 49 states (all except Alaska), Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As of Nov. 5, 2019, the CDC has reported 2,051 cases of probable or confirmed EVALI and 39 deaths. In late October, the Washington, D.C. health department confirmed the district’s first fatality.
EVALI is a serious and sometimes fatal lung disease that has left patients in intensive care units, needing ventilators or requiring other measures to help them breathe. CDC investigators identified early on that most EVALI patients reported using vaping products containing THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. On Oct. 15, the CDC reported that “among 867 patients with information on substances used in e-cigarette, or vaping, products in the [three] months prior to symptom onset, about 86% reported using THC-containing products; 34% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.”
After weeks of very few answers on what is causing the outbreak, the CDC announced on Nov. 8 that vitamin E acetate, which is an oil used as an additive in many vaping products, has been linked to EVALI. Researchers tested lung fluid samples from 29 EVALI patients who vaped THC and found vitamin E acetate in every sample. Though vitamin E acetate is commonly used and harmless in other products, like skincare lotions and vitamin supplements, inhaling it has proven itself to be incredibly dangerous. According to the CDC, the sticky, honey-like nature of vitamin E acetate is clinging to EVALI patients lung tissue, making it hard for patients to breathe and causing serious respiratory problems.
It is important to note that not all EVALI patients used THC-containing vapes: some reported using only nicotine products. This means that people should not assume that nicotine-based vaping products are safe, because there is likely more than one cause of the EVALI outbreak that investigators haven’t identified yet.
On top of that, nicotine-based e-cigarette use has skyrocketed in adolescents and teens, leading to a rising number of nicotine-addicted youth that are more likely to become regular cigarette smokers as a result of their vaping. Juul Labs, Inc., the biggest nicotine-based e-cigarette distributor in the country, has been under fire for fueling youth nicotine addiction by targeting children and young adults in its marketing tactics.
If you or a loved one developed lung disease or nicotine addiction after vaping, contact the experienced personal injury and product liability lawyers at Paulson & Nace, PLLC today at (202) 930-0292 or through our online contact form to discuss your legal options.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.