In December 2018, vaping was declared an epidemic by the US Surgeon General. Juul Labs Inc., the San Francisco-based company that holds approximately 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, has received numerous lawsuits for its product, known as pods.
Some of the biggest health concerns noted as a result of e-cigarettes are lung injury and seizures.
Recently a new medical diagnosis was created; known as an e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury; abbreviated EVALI. EVALI is defined as an acute or subacute respiratory illness that can be severe and life-threatening. As of January 2020, there have been 2,669 hospitalized EVALI cases reported to the CDC from all 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Symptoms of EVALI include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
In November 2019, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI performed the first double lung transplant for a patient injured by vaping. The 17-year-old patient’s surgical team included Dr. Hassan Nemeh, Surgical Director of Thoracic Organ Transplant.
“This is a preventable tragedy. And we have so much respect for this family for allowing us to share their pain to prevent the same from happening to others. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that –and tell your children to think of that,” commented Dr. Nemeh.
Several reports of seizures have also been linked to e-cigarettes; thought to be secondary to the high level of nicotine in the bloodstream. Juul pods have been advertised to contain the highest percent of nicotine compared to all other e-cigarettes. The two Juul pod options sold include a 3% or 5% nicotine strength. One Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.
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The FDA received reports of at least 127 cases of seizures or other neurological symptoms that occurred between 2010-2019 in people that used e-cigarettes.
On September 9, 2019; the FDA issued a warning letter to Juul Labs Inc. for marketing to youth and failing to state that their products contain nicotine and are addictive. Over the past 12 months, several lawsuits have been filed against Juul Labs Inc. In November 2019, New York Attorney General, Letitia James announced a lawsuit against Juul Labs for marketing to teens, failing to explain the amount of nicotine and hooking a generation on e-cigarettes.
Lawsuits continued with Siddharth Breja, a former Juul Labs executive suing his prior employer for concerns about product safety. Breja claimed that approximately 1 million mint-flavored contaminated pods were sold; and that Juul Labs knowingly failed to share this with customers or announce a recall. In addition, Breja also complained that the company sold expired or nearly expired pods.
JUUL Labs website www.juul.com states their mission is to, “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” However, interestingly enough, the top cigarette brand, Marlboro has invested in Juul Labs. In December 2018, Marlboro invested 35% stock of Juul for 12.8 billion dollars.