The largest e-cigarette maker in the U.S. — Juul Labs — has come under fire in recent years for allegedly targeting teens in its marketing campaigns and is now facing several class action lawsuits over allegations of deceptive marketing.
Since it launched in 2015, San Francisco-based Juul Labs has cornered nearly 70 percent of the e-cigarette market. The company grew sevenfold in 2018 and is now worth over $15 billion. The company claims its product is intended for adult smokers only, but kid-friendly flavors like mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber make it appealing for teens to get in on the viral vaping craze too. Juul pods also contain more nicotine than traditional cigarettes, making the potentially more addictive to teens and adults alike.
There are a number of lawsuits ready to be filed against manufacturer Juul Labs. Some of these lawsuits accuse the company of deceptively marketing its product as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, while others allege Juul e-cigarettes caused smoking-related injuries including lung cancer and bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition known as popcorn lung.
Several class action lawsuits have already been filed in four of the United State’s most-populous states: California, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. These lawsuits are reminiscent of the major litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s, and accuse Juul Labs of deceptive marketing and making false claims. Class action lawsuits are different from multi-district litigation (MDL) in that one or more plaintiffs with the same or similar injuries sue on behalf of others who experienced the same or similar injuries. Verdicts and settlements awarded in a class action are split equally among plaintiffs, unlike MDLs where settlements are handed down individually, usually based on the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries.
Juul Lawsuits involving smoking-related injuries are being filed individually with the intent of requesting an MDL in the future. Currently, National Injury Advocates is accepting Juul cases from people 18 to 35 years of age who experienced smoking-related injuries like popcorn lung after using e-cigarettes or juul e-cigarettes.
If you used a Juul or other type of e-cigarette and were subsequently injured, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our team of experienced attorneys and case managers are available 24-7 to offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. Call us at 800-631-5656 or visit nationalinjuryadvocates.com today.
E-cigarettes (short for electronic cigarettes) are battery-operated devices people use to inhale or smoke an aerosol that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Some e-cigarettes are designed to look like traditional cigarettes, while others look like everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks. E-cigarettes may be one-time use or contain refillable tanks or pods. There are more than 460 different e-cigarette brands on the market today, but Juul has quickly become the best-selling brand, with nearly 70 percent market control.
Some common nicknames for e-cigarettes include:
Juul Labs markets its products as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes. Its company website claims Juul Labs was founded by former smokers with “the goal of improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.”
“We envision a world where fewer people use cigarettes, and where people who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely, should they so desire.”
Despite its mission to eliminate cigarettes, Juul was adamant before its launch that it was not in the business of smoking cessation. According to a Washington Post article and reported by The Verge, Juul’s research and development engineer Ari Atkins said before the product’s launch in 2015: “We don’t think a lot about addiction here because we’re not trying to design a cessation product at all.”
Atkins was certainly correct when he said Juul doesn’t “think a lot about addiction,” Juul e-cigs contain more nicotine than traditional cigarettes and far more nicotine than is allowed by UK and European regulators.
Juul offers pods in the United States that contain 5 percent nicotine, far higher than the 1.7 percent allowed in the UK and Europe. Research shows that one Juul pod can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Though the company doesn’t recommend its product to non-smokers, that level of nicotine is cause for concern as nicotine is a highly addictive substance.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nicotine causes long-term changes in the brain that result in addiction and involve withdrawal symptoms when not smoking and difficulty adhering to the resolution to quit.
“A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the ‘high’ associated with other drugs. However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug. Repeated exposure alters these circuits’ sensitivity to dopamine and leads to changes in other brain circuits involved in learning, stress, and self-control.”
These effects from nicotine may be even greater on still-developing adolescent brains, which is why regulators, researchers, and parents are so concerned with Juul’s alleged targeting of teens in its advertising.
The addictive effects of nicotine can take hold quickly, as nicotine is processed quickly by the body. Once smoke enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed in the blood and delivered to the brain. Nicotine levels peak within 10 seconds of inhalation but the effects and feelings of reward dissipate almost just as rapidly. This cycle causes smokers to continue smoking in order to maintain nicotine’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
These symptoms can occur within hours after a person smokes their last cigarette. This is why it can be so hard for people to quit.
Popcorn lung is a possible side effect of using Juul and other e-cigarettes. It is a common name for the condition bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare form of lung disease. Popcorn lung results in scarring and inflammation to the bronchioles, the lung’s smallest airways. This can cause symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.
Popcorn lung got its name from workers who were sickened after breathing in harmful chemicals while working in a microwave popcorn factory. One of those chemicals, diacetyl, is an artificial butter-flavored ingredient found in many common foods and drinks, including popcorn, fruit drinks, caramel, and some dairy products.
The FDA says diacetyl is generally safe to eat, but it is dangerous when inhaled. A number of food companies have removed it from their products, but the majority of e-cigarette flavors still contain the potentially harmful chemical.
Popcorn lung can cause such extensive damage to the lungs, the only treatment option may be a lung transplant. Concerns over the safety of e-cigarettes because of the presence of diacetyl prompted UK and European regulators to ban the use of the chemical in such products in 2017.
Popcorn lung could possibly be caused by exposure to certain harmful chemicals found in e-cigarettes. The symptoms of popcorn lung usually occur two to eight weeks after exposure and are similar to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or CPOD.
Common symptoms of popcorn lung include:
Symptoms of popcorn lung are not episodic, meaning they do not just occur occasionally at certain times. Instead, they occur regularly over the weeks and months that they develop.
Popcorn lung can be a life-threatening condition. Call your doctor right away if your symptoms worsen or if you experience:
Juul and other e-cigarettes have been associated with popcorn lung and other lung diseases. According to Healthline, people can reduce their risk for popcorn lung by limiting or stopping their use of e-cigarettes. Harvard researchers found that more than 75 percent of flavored e-cigarettes and refill liquids tested positive for diacetyl—the same chemical that caused this condition in popcorn factory workers.
The 2016 study, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and funded by the National Institutes of Health, tested 51 different flavors of e-cigarette liquid to determine whether or not three lung-damaging chemicals were present. All three of the chemicals—diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and acetoin—were also present in the popcorn factory where workers were sickened and subsequently developed popcorn lung.
The study found diacetyl in 39 of the 51 flavors tested (76.5 percent), the amount of which ranged from barely measurable levels to concentrations of 239 micrograms per e-cigarette. Researchers also found the two other chemicals in the e-cigarette liquid, including 2,3-pentanedione in 23 of 51 flavors and acetoin in 46 of 51 flavors.
Based on their results, the Harvard researchers concluded:
“Due to the associations between diacetyl, bronchiolitis obliterans and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavoured e-cigarettes.”
Research on the safety of Juul and other e-cigarettes is limited and the long-term health effects are still unknown; however, the limited number of studies that has been conducted shows these products may increase your risk for lung damage.
Doctors often misdiagnose popcorn lung as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema, because the symptoms are so similar. It is important to talk to your doctor about your concerns if you think you might have popcorn lung.
Popcorn lung is diagnosed using chest X-rays or CT scans, but the most definitive way to diagnose the condition is a surgical lung biopsy.
There is no cure for popcorn lung; however, there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms and potentially slow the progress of the disease. Treatment options for popcorn lung include:
If the condition worsens and a person’s lung function is severely affected, the only treatment option may be a lung transplant. There are many risks associated with lung transplants, and one complication may be the redevelopment of the condition.
If it is left untreated, popcorn lung could be fatal.
The best way to prevent popcorn lung is to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals like diacetyl. This means quitting Juul and other e-cigarettes that contain diacetyl and other chemicals that have been associated with popcorn lung and other respiratory diseases.
If you are having trouble quitting vaping or using e-cigarettes, call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or visit smokefree.gov.
If you or a loved one used Juul or another brand of e-cigarette and developed popcorn lung or other lung disease, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Juul and e-cigarette lawsuits are being filed around the country by people who say their use of the product lead to serious side effects and disease.
If you were harmed after using Juul or e-cigarettes, contact National Injury Advocates now for a free consultation and see if you qualify for a Juul lawsuit. Call 800-631-5656 or visit nationalinjuryadvocates.com today.
San Francisco Chronicle. “Mounting lawsuits against Juul reminiscent of early tobacco litigation,” by Catherine Ho. Published April 21, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019:https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Mounting-lawsuits-against-Juul-reminiscent-of-13783089.php
UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. “Class action lawsuit filed against Juul and Altria/Philip Morris builds on past litigation against Big Tobacco,” by Stanton A. Glantz. Published April 16, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019: https://tobacco.ucsf.edu/class-action-lawsuit-filed-against-juul-and-altriaphilip-morris-builds-past-litigation-against-big-tobacco
The Washington Post. “E-cigarette maker Juul targeted teens with false claims of safety, lawsuit says,” by Deanna Paul. Published July 30, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/07/30/e-cigarette-maker-juul-targeted-teens-with-false-claims-of-safety-lawsuit-claims/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.660a736e0017
UPI. “Lawsuit: Juul violating federal law by marketing to teens,” by Clyde Hughes. Published April 15, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019:https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2019/04/15/Lawsuit-Juul-violating-federal-law-by-marketing-to-teens/4691555344870/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are electronic cigarettes?” Revised June 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019:https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is nicotine addictive?” Updated January 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019:https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/nicotine-addictive
National Health Service. “Flavouring found in e-cigarettes linked to ‘popcorn lung.’” Published Dec. 8, 2019. Retrieved April 25, 2019: https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/flavouring-found-in-e-cigarettes-linked-to-popcorn-lung/#
Environmental Health Perspectives. “Flavoring Chemicals in E-Cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and Acetoin in a Sample of 51 Products, Including Fruit-, Candy-, and Cocktail-Flavored E-Cigarettes,” by Joseph G. Allen et al. Published June 1, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2019: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1510185
Healthline. “Popcorn Lung: How to Prevent and Treat This Respiratory Disease.” Reviewed Sept. 4, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2019: https://www.healthline.com/health/popcorn-lung