Electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as E-cigarettes, became mainstream in 2009 and quickly gained momentum with the growing vaping trend. At the same time, manufacturers touted their products – devices featuring a battery-powered heater, a mouth piece, and a cartridge filled with flavor oils and nicotine – as something safer than standard tobacco cigarettes and even an alternative to quitting smoking.
Yet, multiple issues concerning E-cigarettes have emerged, from devices exploding to advertising practices, subjecting them to multiple lawsuits.
In one instance in 2015, a man had turned on his E-cigarette, only to have it explode in his face. According to a report from CBS News, the blast was so severe he suffered a broken neck, facial fractures, shattered teeth, and burns to this mouth. Further, metal shrapnel went directly into his eye, damaging the socket and sinus bones and leaving embedded materials. As a result, he’s expected to need multiple surgical procedures and will experience several long-term health complications.
Yet, this particular incident isn’t isolated. In fact, data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows that 25 E-cigarette explosions occurred from 2009 to 2014. In a report concerning the devices’ safety, FEMA pointed out that individuals have suffered serious burns as a result and compared them to “flaming rockets” when the rechargeable lithium battery fails.
The battery itself may be responsible for the damage, containing flammable liquid electrolytes that combust when overheated.
In E-cigarettes’ brief time on the market, their industry has grown into the millions but is largely unregulated. As a result, products are falsely labeled, while advertisements, legally, have targeted minors.
For instance, manufacturers have often touted E-cigarettes as a safer alternative to their traditional counterparts, but tests from the FDA and Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis show they contain other carcinogens and dangerous substances, and that nicotine amounts greatly vary. In fact, even products labeled as being “nicotine free” still contain a small amount, while others have double that of other smoking cessation devices.
While E-cigarettes don’t contain tar or tobacco, tests have found that the flavor cartridges may have:
- Diethylene glycol: A chemical found in antifreeze that’s toxic to humans.
- Certain tobacco-specific nitrosamines
- Formaldehyde or acetaldehyde
Along with manufacturers’ false claims, advertisements with sweet flavors, including those named after candies, specifically target younger users. In addition to enticing teens, the flavor cartridges have also been consumed by children; in fact, 2013 data from the CDC shows an increase in calls to poison control centers concerning nicotine toxicity.
Children, however, aren’t the only ones at risk for nicotine toxicity. Further studies have shown that, because of E-cigarettes’ variable and inaccurate labeling, adults may be susceptible to it through inhalation, direct skin, or eye exposure.
Exposure may further be associated with:
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Airway obstruction and inflammation
- Popcorn lung
In May 2016, the FDA announced it finally plans to extend the government’s regulatory power to electronic cigarettes. In the process, any manufacturer attempting to put a device on the market needs to go through pre-authorization. Further, devices can no longer be sold to children and teens and, to reduce nicotine poisoning, will come with child-resistant packaging and health warnings. Further, like regular cigarettes, E-cigarettes:
- Are banned to kids under 18
- Will require an ID to purchase
- Will require a vaping application
Although no class action case has been filed, individual lawsuits have already gone after manufacturers. If you’ve experienced an explosion, were incorrectly informed about the health risks, or developed nicotine toxicity, you may have a case.
While the FDA is doing its part to crack down on the industry, manufacturers have misled consumers and need to be held accountable. If you think you have a case, bring it to the attention of our experienced product liability lawyers today.