HAWAI’I LAWYER FILING VAPING LUNG DISEASE AND TEEN JUUL ADDICTION CLAIMS
Are you or someone you love suffering from lung disease related to vaping or addicted to nicotine from using e-cigarettes? The Hawai’i-based law firm Wayne Parsons is filing cases on behalf of Honolulu, Hawai’i locals who developed the life-threatening vaping-related lung disease known as EVALI, or “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury”, and on behalf of individuals who are addicted to nicotine because of vaping.
THE HAWAI’I JUUL TEEN ADDICTION EPIDEMIC
The nicotine-containing e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, Inc., controls over 71% of the market share of the e-cigarette/vaping industry in the United States. Juul’s popularity boomed after it released its signature Juul e-cigarette devices in 2015 and engaged in targeted marketing campaigns directed at youth, teens and young adults. Today, Juul is linked to the rising number of young people addicted to nicotine in Honolulu, Hawai’i and across the United States.
Vaping, which is also called “juuling”, is part of the daily life of teens in Hawai’i. According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, “self-reported current use of cigarettes among high schoolers reached 35% on the Big Island, 31% on Kauai and 32% on Maui” in 2017, giving it the second highest vaping rate in the U.S. for high school students (Colorado took first). At the time, the national average vaping rate was just 13%. The same year, Hawai’i had the highest reported vaping rate among middle school students in the nation.
Juul targeted teens in Hawaii via social media through the use of vibrant colors, young models and tempting flavors like Fruit Medley, Mint, Mango and Creme Brulee. Today, Juul is at the center of a rising number of consumer lawsuits that claim its deceitful product packaging and use of illegal marketing tactics led teens to develop intense nicotine addiction. Meanwhile, many of these teens weren’t even aware how harmful vaping was. The reality is that one single-use Juul pod has roughly the same amount of addictive nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.
On Sep. 9, 2019, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Juul accusing it of illegally “marketing unauthorized modified risk tobacco products by engaging in labeling, advertising, and/or other activities directed to consumers,” including a presentation given to youth at a high school. According to the letter, a Juul representative made the following statements to students:
- Juul “was much safer than cigarettes” and that “FDA would approve it any day.”
- Juul was “totally safe.”
- A student “…should mention Juul to his [nicotine-addicted] friend…because that’s a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, and it would be better for the kid to use.”
- “FDA was about to come out and say it [Juul] was 99% safer than cigarettes…and that…would happen very soon….”
The letter also noted that these claims were “particularly concerning because these statements were made directly to children in school.”
Juul has already been impacted by the nationwide criticism of its practices and products, recently confirming plans to reduce hiring and cut around 500 jobs by the end of 2019. Additionally, an increasingly unfavorable U.S. regularly environment regarding e-cigarettes resulted in Philip Morris International calling off merger talks with Altria, the top investor in Juul, which would have created a $200 billion global power. Juul’s now ex-CEO Kevin Burns resigned in September 2019, apologizing for the epidemic of youth nicotine addiction fueled by Juul: “as a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them.”
HOW ADDICTIVE IS VAPING?
Medical experts worry that nicotine salts, like those used by Juul to make its e-cigarettes, are sentencing young people to a lifetime of addiction to nicotine. Experts warn that these substances could cross the blood-brain barrier and cause learning, memory and attention problems and lead young people to become addicted to other dangerous substances. On top of that, the most recent generation of e-cigarettes reportedly has a higher level of nicotine than previous versions, making vaping even more addictive. As many as 495,000 teenagers who vaped by 2018 are expected to become cigarette smokers in the future, and this number is likely to be even higher accounting for youth who began vaping in 2019.
If you are a Hawai’i-based teenager addicted to Juul or another type of e-cigarette, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can direct you to a facility to assist you with quitting. The Truth Initiative is another resource available for those looking for ways to quit Juul. There is a free, first-of-its-kind text messaging program that has been set up to give teens the support they need to quit Juuling. You can access the program by texting “DITCHJUUL” to 88709. Hawai’i also has a Tobacco Quitline serving youth ages 13-17 that can be reached at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-4669). Participants receive four personalized counseling calls from experienced tobacco cessation specialists, educational materials and unlimited access to a toll-free support line.
HAWAI’I VAPING LUNG DISEASE (EVALI) LAWSUIT
In March 2019, the first cases of the mysterious vaping-related lung disease were reported in the United States. Now, just over half a year later, the disease has spread to become a nationwide public health crisis. On Nov. 5, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported 2,051 confirmed or probable EVALI cases and 39 deaths across the country. While no vaping-related deaths have been reported in Hawai’i to-date, a CDC map of the number of reported lung injury cases lists between 1-9 EVALI cases in the state.
According to health officials, a majority of vaping-related illnesses and deaths are in patients who use THC-containing vaping products. In fact, the CDC announced a breakthrough in its investigation of the illness on Nov. 8 after researchers identified vitamin E acetate, an oil used as an additive in many THC-containing vaping products, as a potential culprit behind EVALI. Essentially, the thick, honey-like oil is sticking onto people’s lungs and making it difficult for them to breathe properly.
Symptoms of EVALI mimic those of other severe respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and pneumonia. Hawai’i vaping lung patients have experienced the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Symptoms can develop over a period of several weeks or as short as a few days. Vitamin E acetate is probably not the only cause of the EVALI outbreak. Some EVALI patients reported using nicotine vaping products, which have not tested positive for the substance. People who keep vaping should monitor themselves for EVALI symptoms and seek medical attention right away if any concerns arise.
WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH VAPING
Quitting Juuling and vaping is hard and can take more than one try. It is important to be able to recognize normal nicotine withdrawal symptoms so that you can quit safely. Symptoms of Vaping and Juul withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings for nicotine
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Nausea and abdominal cramping
- Constipation and gas
- Sore Throat
If you have any concerns about how long withdrawal symptoms are lasting, seek medical assistance to make sure nothing more serious is going on.
THE E-CIGARETTE INDUSTRY IS UNDER SCRUTINY
Local, state, national, and international regulators are scrutinizing the e-cigarette industry and have themselves become the subject of scrutiny. U.S. lawmakers recently accused the CDC and FDA of dropping the ball by failing to regulate the vaping industry. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has attributed the dramatic increase in teen e-cigarette use and subsequent EVALI outbreak to a 2017 FDA decision to delay a review of vaping products.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED HAWAI’I VAPING LAWYER TODAY
Wayne Parsons is dedicated to public health, safety and injury prevention and has proudly served Honolulu for over 40 years. We represent clients throughout the Islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Hawai’i Island, including: Honolulu, Pearl City, Hilo, Kailua, Waipahu, Kane‘ohe, Mililani Town, Kahului, ‘Ewa Gentry, Kihei.. We are committed to making a difference in this vaping epidemic and taking on Juul Labs, Inc. and Big Tobacco.
If you or your family are battling a nicotine addiction or a lung disease that is related to Juul or another e-cigarette product, call Wayne Parsons Law Office at 808-845-2211 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.