Product Liability

First wrongful death suit filed against JUUL

November 21, 2019

JUUL has been the subject of criticism, and now legal action, in recent months over its continued promotion of its products as “safe,” despite the fact that there are no scientific studies supporting this claim.

The first believed wrongful death lawsuit against JUUL Labs was filed Tuesday, October 15th, in federal court for the Northern District of California, brought by the mother of an 18-year-old boy who passed away in the middle of the night. The boy, who suffered from asthma, was also battling a two-year addiction to JUUL’s e-cigarettes. According to his mother, he was otherwise active and healthy and was not exhibiting any signs of asthma the day he died.

Lung injury cases linked to e-cigarettes and vaping continue to surge

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 22nd, 1,604 lung injury cases and 34 deaths linked to vaping have been confirmed. Though products containing THC are involved in most of the reported cases, the 18-year-old, as well as several others hospitalized, were exclusive JUUL users. Mahzad Kazempour Hite, one of the lawyers for the boy’s family, calls into question certain ingredients in vape pens like propylene glycol, a synthetic liquid that is safe to ingest but becomes toxic when heated to a certain temperature. Hite adds, “These are things that should have been studied by JUUL.”

Maciej Goniewicz, a toxicologist for the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate professor of oncology, also has concerns about these ingredients. He explains, “Actually it’s the heating of the nicotine solvent, not the nicotine itself, but propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin – those are the solvents for nicotine – and this is what creates this vapor effect. And these two chemicals if they are overheated, if temperatures go too high, then they decompose. And once they decompose, they create some of the toxic chemicals, and one of those toxic chemicals is formaldehyde.”

Amid scrutiny and legal action, JUUL suspends U.S. advertising, sale of most flavors

As the lung injury cases surge, so has public and regulatory scrutiny of the e-cigarette industry. JUUL has been the subject of criticism, and now legal action, in recent months over its continued promotion of its products as “safe,” despite the fact that there are no scientific studies supporting this claim.

The FDA issued a stern warning letter to the company in September in response to these claims, stating, “Referring to your ENDS products as ‘99% safer’ than cigarettes, ‘much safer’ than cigarettes, ‘totally safe,’ and ‘a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes’ is particularly concerning because these statements were made directly to children in school.”

The lawsuits allege that JUUL deliberately targeted minors with its fruit and candy-flavored products. The matter became so concerning that the Federal Trade Commission also launched an investigation into whether JUUL did in fact market their product to teens. On Thursday, October 17th, JUUL announced that it would suspend the sale of all pod flavors except menthol and tobacco in the U.S. In a statement issued by the company, JUUL promises to “continue to develop scientific evidence to support the use of these flavored products, coupled with strict measures to combat underage use.”

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