Juul & E-Cigarette Lawsuits || What Is Next?

The biggest and latest trend that teenagers are turning to today is the new activity known as “juuling”. Teenagers are beginning to “juul” just about anywhere, whether it be at school, at work, on the street, or in their own home. Juul is a company that manufactures a highly potent and discrete e-cigarette device, often advertised as a “safer alternative” to smoking. This trend, however, is turning out to be anything but safe and doctors worried about public health are about to lose their minds.

Juul Lawsuit and Marketing

An MDL class action lawsuit has been filed against Juul.  Why?  Plaintiffs’ lawyers allege that Juul used false and deceptive advertising in the marketing of Juul.

Many people roll their eyes at this, right?  How many companies do engage in false advertising to some extent. But the core of the complaint is that Juul targeted our young people with their marketing, kids who cannot even legally use the product, in an effort not only to sell more product today but to get young people hooked. (This New York Times article does a great job of showing how Juul is weaseled its way into the school communities.)

If Juul’s goal was to get the product to young people, they are winning.  Big.  Although the device is only sold to individuals aged 21 and over, Juuls have formed a strong cult following from teenagers in middle and high school. A 2016 study found that e-cigarette usage grew 900 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Unimpressed? Let me give you a more stunning statistic.  Levels of nicotine vaping in the past year increased dramatically in 2018.  How much?  In 10th and 12th grade, the increase is the LARGEST EVER for any substance in the 44 years doctors have been tracking drug use in adolescents.  Nicotine vaping increased by 3.4%, 8.9%, and 10.9% in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.  That is all in one year!

This new trend of Juuls has been leading teenagers to develop debilitating nicotine addictions at younger ages, and the lack of research on the safety of these products has left parents concerned about the health of their child. Now that juuling has taken the world by storm, there have been more cases reported of teenagers being hospitalized due to lung damage they suffered from vaping too frequently. As more testing is conducted within the next few years, it’s expected that the adverse effects of juuling will be fully uncovered, but unfortunately, that may not be enough to stop this explosive market.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers also claim that JUUL learned at the feet of the master  — the tobacco industry — to figure out just how to manipulate nicotine content to get people, including children, addicted. So they loaded JUUL e-cigarettes with a ton of nicotine in the hopes of making the product more addictive.

It is pretty serious charge.

What is Juul?

Juul is a new popular handheld e-cigarette that is shaped like a small USB drive. Each Juul is equipped with a “pod”, which is a small cartridge filled with nicotine and flavoring. A Juul pod can come in a wide variety of flavors, some tasting just like candy or desserts, making it even more enticing for a younger audience. The actual Juul stick is very discreet and can be hidden away in someone’s palm or side pocket. Even though Juuls may look small and harmless, they contain an incredible amount of nicotine. Regular vapes and e-cigarettes generally contain a nicotine range between 6 to 30 milligrams per milliliter. Your average traditional cigarette contains about 12 milligrams. Compare that to a single Juul pod, which has 59 milligrams. In other words, one Juul pod is equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. There are some experts arguing that a Juul pod may provide even more nicotine than a regular pack of cigarettes, as some of the nicotine in a cigarette is lost from filtration, whereas a Juul contains no filter.

Why is Juul So Popular Among Teenagers?

If you grew up during the age where DARE programs were being implemented in schools, you may be baffled to hear that teenagers are actively seeking out such a highly addictive substance. Indeed, when DARE programs were at their peak popularity, teenage cigarette usage was steadily declining in the United States. DARE and other drug awareness programs highlighted the dangers of cigarette smoking, citing its adverse health effects, off-putting smell, and the risk of secondhand smoke.

When e-cigarettes joined the market, all of their advertisements focused on one thing: promoting their devices as a safe alternative to smoking. With e-cigarettes, there is no bad smell associated with it, there is no risk of someone inhaling secondhand smoke, and at the time of their release, there were no studies that showed any negative side-effects. Juul marketed their product in the same manner, except their device was even more desirable since it could be easily hidden and taken just about anywhere.

In addition to the pseudo safety net that Juul has advertised, the wide array of unique flavors available with e-cigarettes also draws in children and teenagers. With traditional cigarettes, many people are initially put off by the intense tobacco or menthol flavor used in them. E-cigarettes sell flavors that taste like fruit, candy, and desserts, giving the devices a more playful and fun atmosphere. The sweet flavor encourages the user to continuously “hit” (breathe in) the e-cigarette, giving them constant access to nicotine and making it easier to become addicted.

Commercials for Juuls are often filled with bright and colorful images, which is incredibly appealing to young users. Juul has also taken over social media platforms, with hashtags like “#DoItForTheJuul” appearing on Instagram, challenging teenagers to Juul in public places where vaping would normally not be accepted. On Juul’s main twitter account, it was found that nearly half of its followers were teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration released some statistics about the reasons why teenagers use Juuls. 33% of teens who juuled said the availability of flavors is the main reason why they use the product. Another 39% attributed their usage to the influence of friends or family members who had their own device. A shocking 17% of teens claimed they juuled because they believed it wasn’t as harmful as regular tobacco.

How is Juuling Harmful?

E-cigarettes grew their entire fan base on the claim that their products were safer than regular cigarettes and free of any harmful chemicals that are commonly found in them. Now that more research has been released on the safety of Juuls and other e-cigarettes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not the reality.

A new study has come out that showed high levels of nicotine concentrations found in Juul e-cigarettes are “sufficiently high to be cytotoxic, or toxic to living cells when tested in vitro with cultured respiratory system cells”. Most e-cigarettes do not have any problem with becoming cytotoxic since the nicotine levels never reach a high enough concentration to become dangerous. Juuls, however, are infamous for their incredibly potent liquids that can provide a stronger and more rapid “high”. This, of course, contradicts their main advertising platform that bases itself on curbing smoking habits. Such dangerous amounts of nicotine pose great risks to the brain development of young teens. Nicotine usage in still-developing brains has been proven to alter brain cell activity in the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and memory.

The e-liquid used in e-cigarettes contain various chemicals that assist in the vaping or flavoring process, one being a potentially dangerous chemical known as diacetyl. Diacetyl is usually a harmless additive that can be used to enhance the flavor of e-liquids. However, once vaped at a high temperature, it becomes highly toxic and can cause detrimental respiratory effects if inhaled. Diacetyl is known for causing a condition called popcorn lung. Popcorn lung is a rare condition that damages small airways in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and causing acute coughing fits. If left untreated, popcorn lung can lead to complete respiratory collapse.

There have also been increasing reports about the flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes causing extreme respiratory inflammation and infection. One flavoring chemical known as propylene glycol (PG) has been known to cause these adverse effects, especially for those who are sensitive or allergic to the chemical. There are hundreds of threads online of users complaining about the chemical giving them inflamed lymph nodes, sore throat, inflamed airways, and sinus problems. The side effects of propylene glycol have become so well known in the vaping community that e-liquid manufacturers have started selling “PG-free” liquids, although this can be deceiving as these liquids still do contain a small amount of the chemical.

Another possible risk of using Juuls and e-cigarettes is the development of a condition called “wet lung”. Wet lung occurs when the matter that is inhaled into the lungs triggers an extreme immune response (referred to as hypersensitivity). The airways become inflamed and fluid begins to leak into the lungs, restricting the flow of oxygen. Wet lung can progress rapidly and become a life-threatening situation, with the condition being fatal in 30 to 40 percent of cases. E-cigarettes have been associated with wet lung since the vapor is known to cause significant respiratory irritation in new users.

Juul & E-Cigarette Lawsuits

It’s expected that there will be a large increase in Juul and e-cigarette related lawsuits in the future as more research exposes the dangerous potential of these devices. From what’s currently known, it seems that most lawsuits will center on false advertisement, diacetyl-related injuries, vaping-related injuries, and failure to warn consumer cases.

The liability around these arguments appears to be strong. Anyone who is aware of this new widespread vaping trend can see how e-cigarette commercials and advertisements have locked in a young fan base by creating a false narrative that claims their devices are completely safe to use. There is nothing on Juul packaging that outlines the possible health risks associated with it besides the presence of nicotine. Thousands of young teens have picked up this habit on the basis that vaping will not cause any adverse effects. Additionally, the dangers of the chemical diacetyl have already been proven, and people with no prior history of respiratory or asthma problems are ending up in the hospital after frequent use of e-cigarettes.

In May 2019, a teenager was diagnosed with wet lung after vaping for 3 weeks. The patient showed up to the emergency room with symptoms of severe chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing. She had to remain on breathing machines and tubes for five days while recovering. The patient never had any significant respiratory problems besides minor asthma that rarely required an inhaler. She admitted to using vaping products for 2-3 weeks shortly before she was diagnosed. The doctor involved in her case concluded that wet lung presented “a life-threatening health risk of e-cigarette use in an adolescent patient”. While this is the first official case that documents e-cigarette usage being the sole cause of a severe respiratory illness, this is most likely just the beginning of a growing problem.

The FDA has also been trying to increase its efforts in cracking down on Juul products. A congressional subcommittee recently had a hearing focusing on Juul products and their effect on youth at large. Members of congress wrote about the negative impact juuling had on teens, with one member saying Juul “deployed a sophisticated program to enter schools and convey it’s messaging directly to teenage children, recruited thousands of online influencers to market its vaping devices to youths and targeted children as young as 8 years old”.

Juul administrators continuously denied the notion that they target children, pointing to a statement on their youth prevention website that states, “Juul Labs is committed to improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes. We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke or already use nicotine, to use JUUL products. We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission”. Still, congress members unanimously agreed that Juul is falling short on preventing teen vaping, and the company has until 2020 to prove to the FDA that Juul products are more of a benefit than a liability to public health, otherwise, the FDA could decide to pull the device off the market.

If Juul is taken off the market, this would send a clear signal that the company was posing a substantial risk to adolescents by catering to their interests and neglecting to spread vital information about its dangerous effects.

Unfortunately, the worst part about Juuls and other e-cigarettes is that the trend has spread so widely to the point that restriction or removal of the products will probably not be enough to stop people from using them. Even if major label e-cigarette brands were not available, the demand for strong vapor products is so high that another company will inevitably create a similar product to satisfy customers.

You Want to File a Lawsuit Against Juul…

Our firm is now looking at Juul cases around the country.  But you have to understand, the injury has to be substantial.  Being frustrated at the fact that you are now hooked on Juul is not, in our lawyers’ opinion, a viable lawsuit, at least not now.  But if you or your child has suffered a real injury from Juul, reach out to us online and we will let you know if you have a potential claim.