Just months after the first reports of vaping-related lung illness became known to the public, there have been cases in 49 U.S. states (excluding Alaska), Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CDC most recently updated its case count for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, or EVALI, on Oct. 22, when it confirmed that the total number of illness cases has spiked to 1,604 and the death toll has reached 34.
There is still a large amount of uncertainty regarding what is causing the outbreak. While no single product is associated to all of the patients, most cases seem to be linked to THC-containing products. Unregulated bootleg vaping products, which are typically acquired through friends, family members or other dealers, are suspected to be tainted with additives and/or contaminants causing lung inflammation in some patients.
The vaping industry has been largely unregulated for the past decade. Despite Congress giving the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate tobacco products – including vapes – in 2009, a majority of vaping devices and flavored liquids went unchecked for safety for years. Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless has acknowledged that the FDA should have taken action sooner, saying “we are going to catch up” during a September congressional hearing on the EVALI outbreak.
Today, vaping products are wildly popular among teens and young adults. More than one in four surveyed high school students admitted to vaping within the past month, and the youngest vaping death to-date was a 17-year-old high school student from New York. Children as young as 13 have developed EVALI, which results in hospitalization for nearly all patients. And according to CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, EVALI is “fatal or potentially fatal, with half of the cases requiring intensive care.”
The outbreak has led an increasing number of young people to seek help quitting vaping, but many are already addicted. Withdrawal symptoms associated with vaping addiction include strong cravings, irritability, headaches and nausea. According to Dr. Scott Hadland, an adolescent addiction specialist and pediatrician, “for some, [vaping] withdrawal is almost paralyzing. They can’t go about their day, can’t go to school.” He adds that “it’s not something [he] had ever seen with regular cigarettes.”
The companies responsible for fueling vaping addiction in youth and flooding the market with dangerous products should be held responsible for the harm they have caused. If you or a loved one developed lung disease or 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.