The nation’s top-selling e-cigarette company, JUUL, originally launched in 2015, has been flooding the U.S. market with its unique vapes that closely resemble USBs. Just four years later, hundreds of cases of potentially vaping-related lung disease are being investigated and eight confirmed deaths linked to vaping are at the top of the news. On top of that, it has recently come to light that JUUL has used illegal marketing tactics to heavily advertise its e-cigarettes to vulnerable children and young adults.
On Sep. 9, the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to JUUL regarding its illegal and deceitful unproven claims about the safety of its e-cigarette products. This comes after a separate FDA letter expressed concern over multiple claims a JUUL representative had made during a school presentation directed toward youth, including that the “FDA would approve [JUUL] any day”, JUUL products are “totally safe” and JUUL is a “safer alternative than smoking cigarettes” for nicotine-addicted youth.
To legally make such claims, companies must be granted an appropriate FDA order verifying their accuracy. In the letter, the FDA noted that JUUL had not done so, saying that “regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum on tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful. JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”
On Sep. 11, two days after the letter was issued, the federal government called for the nationwide removal of flavored e-cigarette products. According to a statement given by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the federal government “will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.” Though tobacco-flavored e-cigarette pods would remain available under this removal, they account for less than 20 percent of JUUL’s U.S. sales; a majority of consumers today opt for pods that come in flavors like mango, cool mint, fruit medley and creme brulee.
Eight U.S. deaths have been linked to vaping-related lung disease in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon and Missouri. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Sep. 19 that it is investigating 530 vaping-related illnesses across 38 states and one U.S. territory as federal health officials attempt to pinpoint what is causing lung disease in vape users. Among the cases being investigated, half involve individuals under 25 years old; 16 percent of the cases involve individuals 18 or younger.
In the meantime, the FDA is pursuing a criminal investigation into the vaping supply chain that extends across several states, products and substances. While not the only e-cigarette company being investigated, JUUL is by far the largest distributor in the nation, accounting for 71 percent of the e-cigarette market share in May 2019. Over 150 nicotine and THC-containing vaping products will be examined for toxic substances in an attempt to identify the cause of vaping-related lung disease.
If you or a loved one developed lung disease 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.