From vape battery explosions that have caused death and property damage, a rise in teen addiction, seizures, and now a mysterious lung illness that has been linked to at least 15 deaths – vaping and e-cigarette use is becoming increasingly controversial.
For one family in Texas, vaping became the missing puzzle piece in their 17-year-old son’s unexplained pulmonary illness that put him on life support.
Tryston Zohfeld was hooked up to emergency medical tubes and a ventilator at one point during his hospital stay at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. He’d even been put into a medically induced coma for 10 days.
His lungs were completely blocked, according to x-rays. The doctors ran tests but it wasn’t pneumonia or a disease. They were completely flabbergasted at how the perfectly healthy teen was suddenly unable to breathe.
Dr. Karen Schultz, a specialist in pediatrics and pulmonology, told ABC affiliate WFAA, “We eliminated everything that we could possibly think of that could have caused it.”
Yet, Tryston had been vaping regularly since he was in 8th grade, sometimes two to three vape pods a week. It wasn’t until a family member revealed this valuable piece of information that everything started making sense.
Schultz theorizes the chemicals Tryston had been inhaling from the vape device caused his lungs to inflame so much they were unable to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen anymore. According to CBS, his habit had already scarred his lungs.
Tryston was released from the hospital after 18 days and immediately trashed his vape pens and e-cigarettes. “I was definitely given a second chance, and as soon as I woke up from that coma I knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
Unfortunately, a number of consumers were not so lucky. Our hearts go out to the families of those affected by this national tragedy.
CDC, FDA, Health Agencies Want Answers
Though there isn’t a specific product that has been linked to pulmonary illnesses, health agencies across the country are boosting awareness of vape-related lung injury and asking healthcare providers to help them identify the root cause.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was investigating 530 cases of severe lung disease it believes are linked to vaping. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration plans to review 127 cases of seizures.
The CDC reports that as of September 26, 2019, there have been 530 cases of the severe pulmonary disease reported.
Symptoms of this include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
Symptoms were reported to have worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Many of the patients have acknowledged the use of THC in their vape cartridges but no specific product has been identified.
There have been reported illnesses in 38 states. In August 2019, one person died from the result of respiratory issues due to vaping, which made it the first vape-related death in the United States.
Since that time, there have been 15 deaths related to the mysterious acute lung disease.
Healthcare providers are urged to ask patients about their use of e-cigarette or vape products when they present respiratory or pulmonary illness– especially those that are unexplained. They are also urged to gather information about the vape device (juice, cartridges, brand, etc) and any illegal or legal drug use the patient may have participated in.
This helps the agencies narrow down any suspicious trends in a particular brand.
Vaping Illness and Death Timeline
Sept. 19, 2008
The World Health Organization (WHO) said vaping is not a legitimate therapy in order to combat quitting smoking cigarettes. It also called on various e-cigarette companies to put money into funding clinical studies and toxicity analyses.
July 22, 2009
The Food and Drug (FDA) administration called on the need for clinical studies to measure any health risks associated with vaping. “At this time the agency has no way of knowing, except for the limited testing is has performed, the levels of nicotine or the amounts or kinds of other chemicals that the various brands of these product deliver to the user,” the announcement said.
Sept. 13, 2013
Increased regulation was a demand of the National Association of Attorneys General. “Through television advertising, consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the safety of e-cigarette ingredients.”
July 7, 2016
Diacetyl is a chemical linked to causing “popcorn lung” which is an irreversible lung disease called bonchiolitis obliterans. Years ago it was removed from popcorn products because of its negative health affects on factory workers. However, some e-cigarette flavors used diacetyl in their vaping flavors.
Sept 11, 2018
Scott Gottlieb, then-FDA commissioner, called vaping an epidemic due to the ease of access young children and teenagers had to e-cigarettes. “We have access to data that tells us that the growth in youth use of the cigarettes has reached what I’m calling epidemic proportions,” he said.
At this time, President Trump signed a bipartisan farm bill to the tune of $867 billion that would allow many states to grow and sell marijuana-based hemp. This created a large market for cannabidiol (CBD).
Mendocino County Sheriff’s office in California seized $5 million worth of counterfeit THC oil. It contained over 7,000 time the allowable level of the pesticide, myclobutanil; which turns into a form of cyanide when heated.
July 25, 2019
A press conference was held with Wisconsinand Children’s Hospital health authorities about a mysterious lung illness associated with vaping. This was the first publicly held meeting that discussed the illness that has now taken hold of the country.
July 28, 2019
Two individuals were arrested in Mendocino County for manufacturing and selling contaminated and counterfeit THC oil. They later admitted their product was sold both on the black market as well as dispensaries.
Aug. 1, 2019
Wisconsin and Illinois notified the CDC it would be investigating vaping-related illnesses.
August 9, 2019
Utah followed suit and began its own investigation of vaping-related illnesses.
Aug. 14, 2019
A hospital received four “severe lung injury” patients, which prompted the Minnesota Department of Health to open an investigation.
Aug. 17, 2019
The CDC issued a media statement that said the agency is investigating the cause of severe pulmonary illness. It stated ambiguity in determining the exact cause of the illness:
“There is no conclusive evidence that an infectious disease is causing the illnesses. While some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses.”
Aug. 23, 2019
The first vaping-related illness was the cause of death, confirmed by the CDC
Aug. 27, 2019
The Food and Drug Administration issued an update on respiratory illness from e-cigarettes: “As of Aug. 27, 2019, 215 possible cases have been reported from 25 states, and additional reports of pulmonary illness are under investigation.”
The update solidified the recent trend in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) containing e-cigarette juices and products contributing to breathing difficulties in patients.
The FDA also said it’s received 80 samples of products and substances from various states that have sent them in to be analyzed. The contents of these samples will check whether or not they contain THC, nicotine, and other substances and/or chemicals and ingredients.
“FDA continues to gather information about the names of the products used, where the products were purchased, and how the products were used. That information is critical to help determine whether patterns emerge on which we can take additional action.”
Additionally, the FDA said it has not identified one particular brand or product responsible for contributing to respiratory illness in those who vape.
The CDC issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory that outlines safety precautions people can take. Those are:
- If you are concerned about these specific health risks, consider refraining from the use of e-cigarette products.
- Anyone who does use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids).
- Anyone should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
In regards to using e-cigarettes as a cigarette smoking cessation regimen, the FDA suggests that “adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications.”
If you’re concerned about unexpected e-cigarette health complications and/or product issues, the FDA encourages members of the public to submit a report to the agencies Safety Reporting Portal here.
Sept. 5, 2019
The FDA has linked a strong majority of vaping illness [and now three deaths] to a high concentration of vitamin E in many vaping cartridges that contained THC. The New York State Department of Health was able to identify the trend through an influx of cases stemming from the New York area.
“The FDA is analyzing samples submitted by the states for the presence of a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC and other cannabinoids along with cutting agents/diluents and other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons and toxins,” said Michael Felberbaum, senior FDA advisor.
For a detailed account of the update, click here.
Sept. 6, 2019
Indiana health officials confirmed the third vaping illness death.
Sept. 9, 2019
The FDA came down hard against Juul, claiming the company illegally marketed its product as being less harmful than cigarettes. Acting FDA commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said, “Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful.”
Sept. 10, 2019
The sixth vaping death was reported by the Kansas Department of Health. Secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Dr. Lee Norman said in a statement, “If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop. The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify.”
Sept. 11, 2019
The Trump administration made promises to ban most e-cigarette products, including mint and menthol flavors.
Sept. 12, 2019
Two men were arrested by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department in Arizona. They had more than $380,000 worth of illegal THC vape cartridges; many of which were the “Dank” brand that has been linked to the mystery illness in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Sept. 15, 2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency action to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in the state.
Sept. 16, 2019
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign a bill to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
Sept. 19, 2019
The FDA announced it was launching a criminal probe into the mystery vaping illness. The agency said it has collected 150 samples from states across the country to analyze them for “chemicals, nicotine, THC, opioids, cutting agents, additives, poisons, toxins, or pesticides.”
Sept. 20, 2019
Walmart announced it would stop sales of e-cigarettes in its stores.
Sept. 23, 2019
A tip to the Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” were aware of federal prosecutors in California gearing up to conduct a criminal probe into Juul. However, none of this information can be confirmed or denied by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California.
Sept. 24, 2019
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal director of the CDC, testified before Congress about the fatalities surrounding vaping illness and death. She reiterated that the CDC was still unable to identify “specific product or compound that is directly linked” to vaping illness.
Sept. 25, 2019
Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul, stepped down from his position with the company. It’s “Make the Switch” campaign has been controversial because it advocated for cigarette smokers to switch to Juul.
Sept. 25, 2019
Massachusetts banned all vaping products in the state for four months. This included nicotine and marijuana e-juices. It will last until January of 2020 and was initiated to let health officials determine the cause of vaping illness and death. Governor Charlie Baker said in a press conference, “The use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products is exploding and we are seeing reports of serious lung illnesses, particularly in our young people.”
Sept. 26, 2019
Death toll from vaping lung disease rises to at least 11 as Georgia and Florida report fatalities from the rare form of pneumonia that has left officials struggling to identify the cause.
Sept. 27, 2019
As of September 27, 2019, there have been 805 vaping related illnesses in 46 states.
Oct. 2, 2019
Alabama confirms the first death related of the state.
Oct. 4, 2019
The FDA announced the public should stop using vaping products containing THC after more than 1,000 reports of lung injury and some deaths. The FDA called the situation “distressing”. Many of the reports indicate THC-containing vaping products to be the culprit, but this information does not determine it is the root cause.
Aside from warnings to pregnant women, children, or adults who do not currently use vaping products, the agency issued the below warnings:
- Do not use vaping products that contain THC.
- Do not use vaping products—particularly those containing THC— obtained off the street or from other illicit or social sources.
- Do not modify or add any substances, such as THC or other oils, to vaping products, including those purchased through retail establishments.
- No vaping product has been approved by the FDA for therapeutic uses or authorized for marketing by the FDA. The Agency recommends contacting your health care provider for more information about the use of THC to treat medical conditions.
Do you have an e-cigarette/vape lawsuit?
If you or a loved one have suffered property damage, injury, seizures, or suffered lung illness from e-cigarettes or vape devices, you should contact the lawyers at Johnson // Becker. You may be entitled to financial compensation by filing an e-cigarette lawsuit.
We offer a Free Case Evaluation and would be honored to speak with you.