Earlier this month, four separate school systems filed lawsuits, all aimed at the same target: JUUL, the largest e-cigarette maker in the US. The plaintiffs, Olathe Public Schools in Kansas, Three Village Central School District in New York, Francis Howell School District in Missouri and La Conner School District in Washington, allege that JUUL purposefully targeted minors with its advertising and product design.
This isn’t the first time JUUL has been embroiled in controversy. With more and more vaping-related injuries being diagnosed, victims have filed dozens of lawsuits against the e-cigarette company. Experts believe that we may be on the verge of a national epidemic of vaping lung damage — one where teenagers and young adults are disproportionately affected. Already, the CDC is reporting approximately 1,300 separate cases of vaping-related lung injuries and 26 confirmed deaths.
At FVF, we believe that all injured victims deserve to make educated decisions about their legal options. Here’s what we think vaping injury victims should know.
A Background on Vaping and Vaping Lung Damage
Vaping devices have been on the market for about a decade, but many people credit JUUL for their rising popularity. In 2015, the e-cigarette manufacturer released a small, USB-sized vaporizer, which became an immediate hit — especially with teens. In a 2018 University of Michigan study, over a third of high school seniors surveyed said they had used a vaping device in the in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.
Meanwhile, JUUL positioned itself as a way for adult smokers to quit cigarettes, even making plans to pitch its products to employers and health insurers.
Over the past year, however, individuals began coming to doctors with mysterious illnesses — complaining of chest pain, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and other telltale signs of lung injuries. All of these patients had one thing in common: they were all vape users.
After several deaths were reported, the CDC launched a full-scale investigation and rapidly uncovered hundreds of cases and multiple deaths contributed to vaping-related injuries. The FTC, meanwhile, began investigating the marketing and advertising tactics of several high-profile vape manufacturers, while the FDA initiated a surprise inspection of JUUL’s headquarters in San Francisco, seizing thousands of pages of documents related to JUUL advertising.
Why Are Victims Suing?
Most vaping lawsuits center around the same issue: e-cigarette manufacturers’ dubious advertising and marketing practices. Parents of teens and school systems claim that JUUL, which owns almost three-fourths of the vaping market share, directly targeted young adults — especially teens — through their product design and marketing. In particular, the miniscule size of JUUL’s vaporizers makes it easy for school-aged teens to hide devices from teachers and administrators, while its flavored pods provided an easy gateway to nicotine use.
In a congressional hearing earlier this year, lawmakers questioned JUUL on its marketing practices, which included youth-oriented advertising, social media messaging, and launch parties. Also in question was the company’s practice of holding anti-smoking and health events at schools and summer camps across the nation. In these programs, representatives reportedly touted their products as a “totally safe” alternative to smoking.
Plaintiffs in vape lawsuits also allege that they began vaping because they believed e-cigarette manufacturers’ claims that their products offered a safe way to stop smoking. Critics say that JUUL products’ “health benefits” are largely unfounded, and that positioning its vapes as a way to quit smoking violated federal advertising restrictions on nicotine products. At this time, the FDA has not approved vaporizers as a smoking cessation tool, as it has for nicotine gum and other similar products.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured by a JUUL Device?
If you regularly use vaping devices and are experiencing the symptoms described above, you should immediately cease vaping altogether and seek medical care as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to give you an accurate diagnosis and initiate a treatment program. They will also be able to help you document your injury, its cause, and its severity.
If you began using vapes because you believed they were medically safe — or if you are the parent of an affected minor you believe was wrongly targeted by vaping advertising — you should reach out to a lawyer right away. It’s strongly recommended that you at least speak with a personal injury attorney so you can understand your rights and options and make the best choices for your case.
At FVF, we’re helping vaping injury victims get educated about their case. Contact us today for a pressure-free case evaluation — at no cost — where we’ll discuss your rights and help you make a plan for your case. We stand with vaping injury victims and will work with you to hold e-cigarette manufacturers accountable for negligence.