In late September, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker issued a temporary ban on the sale of vape-related products in the Commonwealth. The ban, with minor modifications, survived legal challenge, and the sale of most vaping-related materials is currently prohibited. But, just weeks after the ban took effect, the Department of Public Health reported that the death of a woman from Middlesex County is believed to be the Commonwealth’s second vaping-related fatality.
While the exact cause of vaping related lung injury has not yet been determined, reports of illness and death are growing, in Massachusetts and around the country. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has begun providing updated information about confirmed and probable cases of vape-related lung injury and illness on its website each week.
As of the October 30th report, there were 20 confirmed and 41 probable cases throughout the Commonwealth. More than 80% of the victims required hospitalization. Though more than half of reported cases involved people under the age of 30, both Massachusetts residents who died of vaping-related complications were older. The first victim was in her sixties, and second in her forties.
The negative effects are distributed across a variety of substances. 30% of those identified in Massachusetts reported vaping only nicotine. 39% reported vaping only THC, and another 25% reported having vaped both substances. A very small number said they had vaped only CBD.
The data above relates only to the confirmed and probable cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are more than 140 additional suspected cases in Massachusetts.
Neighboring New Hampshire has not instituted a ban, and as recently as early October the New Hampshire governor’s office has confirmed that they are not considering a ban. Instead, a spokesman for the Governor said, they are focusing on combating the growing use among teens. To date, New Hampshire has identified only one case of vaping-related illness.
Vaping Related Litigation
Around the country, individuals, school districts, and even governmental entities have filed suit against vape product manufacturers. Most of these lawsuits have been aimed at Juul, the industry leader in vaping materials. The lawsuits assert a wide range of claims, ranging from claims that the product is inherently dangerous and that the company failed to warn of known dangers to the allegation that the manufacturer is targeting teens with its marketing.
Many of the alleged damages relate to lung injury and breathing problems. And, at least one study has determined that the vapor suppresses immune cells in the lungs, leading to inflammation and potentially increasing the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Several young users, including some who were athletes in good health, have reported becoming short of breath when engaging in normal day-to-day activities.
However, not all effects believed to be associated with vaping involve the lungs or breathing problems. Users have reported a wide range of other symptoms, including addiction, stroke and seizures. Other possible effects include fever, nauseau, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue.
While many questions remain unanswered, it appears clear that users of vaping related products are suffering unforeseen injuries and illnesses. Researchers currently believe that problems are chemically-induced, but they have not yet identified a common thread among the products used by those who have fallen ill.
Many public interest groups and governmental entities are warning against the use of Juul and other vaping products. If you or your teen has suffered symptoms, including but not limited to difficulty breathing or seizures after having used vaping products, seek medical attention as soon as possible and make sure to share information about vape usage with your physician. It is also in your best interest to consult an experienced product liability attorney as soon as possible.