The United States is going through an epidemic. Over 200 cases of a new vaping-related “mystery respiratory illness” have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control. Multiple have proven fatal. And lawsuits are popping up like wildfire.
A New Jersey 19-year-old is the fourth resident of his state to file a lawsuit against Juul Labs, the company that is estimated to produce around 75% of all e-cigarettes sold in America. The lawsuit alleges that Juul intentionally markets and sells its products to young people, as well as misrepresenting the addictive dangers of the nicotine used in said products. The young man reportedly became so addicted, smoking a dangerous two Juul vapour pods a day, that he “slept with his Juul in hand”, according to the lawsuit.
And he is by no means alone. Similar stories include a 20-year-old Wisconsin man, a former star high school athlete, no less, hospitalized with a fever and chills and having been diagnosed with pneumonia; 24-year-old William Brown of Fort Worth, TX, who died after the battery in his vape pen exploded; then-14-year-old Luka Kinard of North Carolina, who suffered a seizure after vaping the equivalent of 80 tobacco cigarettes a day; Elizabeth Swearingen and John Thomas Via Peavy, a pair of 19-year-old Alabama students filing a joint lawsuit after both accidentally ingested vape fluid and are still dealing with symptoms like chest congestion and severe breathing problems, with Swearingen reported to have difficulty breathing “during the simplest of tasks.” Common symptoms related to the vaping-related mystery illness many of these cases seem to have in common include cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; fatigue, fever, or weight loss
Juul CEO Kevin Burns called these recent cases “worrisome” on CBS This Morning, also warning youth and non-smokers not to use e-cigarettes: "Don't vape. Don't use Juul. Don't start using nicotine if you don't have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine. Don't use the product. You're not our target consumer." Burns claims that their product is not toxic or damaging to the public, and “does not present a risk.” Juul’s mission is to "improve the lives of the world's one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes," and they have the numbers to back that up, as smoking declination rates are three times the average in American history (as Burns proudly touted), with cigarette sales volume having declined by 7% in the past few weeks alone in the wake of rising e-cig sales.
Some governments and government agencies are also holding Juul to task for its alleged wrongdoings. The attorney-general of North Carolina has announced lawsuits against eight different e-cigarette makers for allegedly fuelling the so-called “vape epidemic” among high and middle schoolers. The FDA has been investigating Juul since April amid pressure to do so from various watchdog groups in regards to some 127 seizures between 2010 and 2019 supposedly linked to the product. Various members of Congress, too, have launched investigations into Juul.
Some links have been drawn between the mystery illness and the use of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as a substitute for vape juice (something dangerous, called ‘dabbing’, that you definitely shouldn’t do).
And just recently, the CDC issued a warning not to use e-cigarettes while they attempt to figure out the cause of the mystery illness. The CDC’s more permanent guidelines on vaping include: not to use it while pregnant or young (both youth and young adults), not to use it without previously having smoked, not to buy e-cigarettes off the street, and not to vape using THC or modify the product in any way not intended by the manufacturer. The CDC also recommends that, if trying to quit smoking, you try “evidence-based” methods like counseling and medications instead of vaping.