It is time to think about vaping in America. We need to recognize that it is not an innocuous practice with no cost to individuals or society. “E-cigarettes were introduced in 2006 as an alternative to combustible cigarettes.” Health officials announced last week what they believe to be the first death linked with e-cigarettes and vaping. A rapidly-growing number of people are being diagnosed with serious respiratory illnesses and lung damage also believed to be linked with vaping and e-cigarettes.
In recent years, vaping or using e-cigarettes has become a substitute for conventional cigarette smoking. On many evenings (after 10 pm), commercials are aired for vaping that are aimed at adults who want help quitting cigarettes. A major concern about vaping is the claim that manufacturers (e.g., Juul) have carefully targeted teenagers and young adults with advertising. This advertising attracted many young users of the technology who never smoked conventional cigarettes.
The Illinois Department of Public Safety announced last week that an adult State resident died due to a severe respiratory illness that health officials believe is linked to vaping. A “mystery illness” is being investigated to determine if it is linked to e-cigarettes. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Public Health Director, said that the severity of the illnesses is alarming. He underscored the urgency of providing the public the truth about the dangers of vaping.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on the same day that it is investigating 193 possible cases of severe lung illness that may be linked to e-cigarettes. These cases are located in 22 states. “Several studies have identified several #effects of e-cigarettes including: damage to cells and inhibition of cell growth, “popcorn lung”, or damaged alveoli in the lungs.”
The popularity of vaping has exploded among teenagers during the last few years. Many people are concerned about the harmful effects of nicotine (in the e-cigarettes) on the developing brains of teens. However, the effects of nicotine may be only one of a surprising number of harmful effects of vaping.
Some of the patients treated in Illinois are said to have reported using products that contain THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana. Some of the e-cigarettes contain a broad range of chemicals used for flavoring and function that even include formaldehyde used to preserve corpses), benzene (used in gasoline and pesticides), and cadmium (a toxic chemical used in car batteries). Research has demonstrated that the aerosol used in e-cigarettes is harmful. In fact, said one doctor, “the possibility of what can go into these cartridges is almost limitless.”
According to Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota, “Many of the cases have followed a similar and frightening pattern.” Patients present with what appears to be a viral infection (headache, fever, muscle pain, upset stomach). This rapidly progresses into what appears to be pneumonia. Testing indicates no signs of an infection. Inflammation increases in the lungs until they cease normal function. Some patients have required a ventilator. A number of these patients are critical and fighting to hold on to life.
There is a widespread belief that vaping is perfectly safe. Clearly, it is time to talk about vaping. When we know that e-cigarettes contain materials that are very harmful, what is our responsibility? When we know that teenagers are damaging their lungs in ways that may affect them for the rest of their lives, how urgent is our responsibility? What will be the cost of treating these illnesses, and who will pay it? Should manufacturers be permitted to advertise e-cigarettes on television? How will society deal with the cost of the yet-undiscovered long-term effects of vaping? Should manufacturers be required to disclose all ingredients in these e-cigarettes? Should the ingredients be regulated? Who should be responsible to pay damages to users and their families?
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Altizer Law, P.C., is a personal injury law firm in Roanoke, VA, helping people who have been injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Bettina Altizer has been helping plaintiffs for more than 30 years.