Written by Attorney Calle Mendenhall
In early 2019, news outlets began reporting on serious illnesses and deaths attributed to e-cigarette devices. Since then, several dozen deaths and hundreds of illnesses have come to light, and new multi-district litigation has emerged in the Northern District of California to handle injury claims as well as claims related to the marketing practices of the largest e-cigarette manufacturer, JUUL. But how did this epidemic even begin with all of the knowledge companies, consumers, and regulators have on tobacco?
The JUUL e-cigarettes and flavor pods came on the market in 2015. It is alleged that JUUL’s founding members accessed thousands of Big Tobacco industry documents from earlier litigations that were made public in 1997. The documents contained aggressive marketing tactics detailing how to promote their products; two said tactics involve seducing new smokers by using candy-like flavors, such as mango, cucumber, fruit medley, and crème brûlée, and getting numerous social media influencers and celebrities to promote the products. The makers of JUUL also marketed its product as a “safer choice” to a regular cigarette. These e-cigarettes, however, are anything but safe.
JUUL’s pre-filled cartridges contain a higher concentration of nicotine per pod than a pack of cigarettes. It is estimated that one JUUL cartridge or pod can deliver as much nicotine as 30-40 cigarettes. Once addicted to that level of nicotine concentration, young adults struggle to quit smoking. Sustained usage of e-cigarettes is beginning to show the following documented health risks: nicotine poisoning, seizures, strokes, heart attacks, heart problems, lung/respiratory problems, mental health/behavioral problems, and can even lead to death.
This alarming growth in addiction and injury in our young adults at the hands of corporations is inexcusable and must be addressed. We are optimistic that those affected by these products will be successful in Juul litigation and will put an end to the sale and distribution of these e-cigarettes.