Vaping Illness in the United States

Although some versions of electronic tobacco delivery products have been around since as early as the 1960s, the modern e-cigarette as we know it was not created until decades later. In 2003, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented the first commercially successful e-cigarette to try and quit smoking after losing his dad to lung cancer. Electronic cigarettes did not make it into the United States until 3 years later, and since then the popularity of e-cigarettes and other vape devices has increased year by year.

Because vaping is a relatively new trend, there is not a lot of information about its potential health consequences. Many claim that it is a healthier alternative to smoking traditional nicotine cigarettes, while others believe the devices to be a lot more dangerous due to their higher concentration of nicotine, faster rate of nicotine delivery, and the inclusion of other potentially harmful chemicals within the vaping liquid.

In 2019, over a decade after the introduction of the e-cigarette to the United States, the CDC and FDA launched an investigation into the multistate outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with the use of vaping products. In an effort to better understand the emergence of vaping illness in America, we took a look at the prevalence of vaping among the U.S population, and who has suffered lung injuries as a result of vaping.

Also available in Spanish: La Enfermedad del Vaping en los Estados Unidos

Infographic about vaping illness in the United States

Whis Is Vaping Popular?

Vaping surged in popularity among traditional smokers who were looking to quit, or wanted a healthier alternative to cigarettes. As the price of vape products decreased, they became more accessible to a larger population. Former smokers began to vape, as well as individuals who had never smoked before.

The creation of JUUL in 2015 skyrocketed the popularity of vaping, particularly among youth and young adults. Due to its subtle, modern design and ease of use, JUUL became a great alternative for many individuals who disliked the bulkiness and conspicuous design of earlier vaping products.

JUUL also enticed a new generation to take up vaping, particularly American youth. JUUL’s sleek electronic design meant it could pass as a USB to unaware teachers in schools. The tiny, colorful JUULpods and their fruity flavors seemed to appeal strongly to a younger audience, who could be ignorant to the fact that the device actually contained nicotine.

What Is Vaping Illness?

Because vapes are a relatively new method of nicotine-delivery, no one really knows the long-term health impacts associated with their use. In 2019, over 1,000 cases of lung injuries associated with using vape products have been reported to the CDC. Spanning nearly the entire country, cases have been reported from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory. There have also been 26 confirmed deaths in 21 states.

The specific chemical(s) that are causing lung injuries among vape users is still yet to be determined, but latest findings suggest that products containing THC may play a role in the outbreak.

The symptoms associated with vaping illness include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

If you use e-cigarette or vaping products and experience these symptoms, see a healthcare provider immediately.

Legal Measures

Vape product manufacturers and distributors have not been immune to legal action taken against them.

Individual lawsuits have been filed in multiple states against both vape device manufacturers and the vape shops that sell them for leading to nicotine addiction and causing lung illness, particularly among children and teenagers. Vape device manufacturers have also been the target of multiple personal injury and product liability lawsuits for serious injuries caused by exploding e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Both individual and class action lawsuits have been made against JUUL specifically. These lawsuits claim that JUUL illegally marketed their vape products to minors. The deceptive marketing practices cited in these lawsuits include adding underage visitors to the website to JUUL’s email subscription list after they were denied access to the website by its age verification system. Once added to the list, minors would receive promotional materials and product discounts encouraging them to purchase the product. Additionally, the sweet and fruity flavors used in JUULPods can be seen as reminiscent of children’s candy and food, enticing younger generations to use the product.

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