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JUUL Vaping Pens Can Disrupt Nearby Pacemakers, Other Heart Implants: Case Report

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E-cigarettes may cause heart pacemakers to malfunction and lead to serious side effects, warn the findings of a new case study.

Researchers with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston published a case report on March 16 of an e-cigarette interfering with a pacemaker and causing it to malfunction. Their findings were published online in the medical journal Heart Rhythm Case Reports.

The case study details an incident involving a 48-year old male with a history of cardiac sarcoidosis. He had a history of heart problems, including irregular heartbeats, which required medical interventions.

The patient was upgraded to a new pacemaker, a dual chamber implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), since his device was nearing the time for elective replacement.

However, the patient reported hearing his new device “beep” several times. He described it as an audible “single steady tone,” but he experienced no symptoms during these episodes and the device appeared to be functioning normally.

Medtronic was contacted to analyze the data from the remote transmission of his pacemaker and identified there were four magnet interactions with the device.

The patient was questioned further about the dates corresponding to when he heard the beep. The patient recalled using a JUUL device, which he often stored in his left breast pocket directly over his pacemaker. JUUL devices, like many other vapes, include magnetic components used in the charging process.

Doctors tested the device by holding the JUUL up to his ICD system and the system made a loud beep. They determined the magnetic device in his vape was interfering with his pacemaker.

Doctors educated the patient about the importance of keeping any type of magnet, or any device that creates a magnetic field, at least six inches from the device. That can include power tools, bank cards, name tags and cell phones, but a warning about vaping devices has not been included in that list.

JUUL’s website only recommends keeping the devices away from items with magnetic strips, such as credit cards, because the devices can demagnetize them. For instance, it can cause a laptop to switch into sleep mode when using a computer’s USB port to charge.

However, this is the first reported case of unintended interference of a pacemaker by an e-cigarette. The case report’s authors determined patients with pacemakers should exercise caution if they vape because the devices can cause serious heart complications. Older pacemakers are more susceptible to problems with vapes, but all patients with any type should be cautious, the researchers warn.

JUUL Vaping Concerns

This is the most recent in a growing number of concerns over the risks of vaping in general and JUUL vaping products in particular. Other studies have indicated that not only does it expose users to toxic carcinogenic chemicals, it can damage the lining of the blood vessels, and is linked to increased risk of heart attack.

Research published last year indicated JUUL pods deliver higher rates of nicotine than other e-cigarettes, and critics say the brand was designed intentionally to be as addictive as Marlboro cigarettes.

Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States.

In addition to designing JUUL to look like a USB thumb drive, the manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL pods in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers starting to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.

In September 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence it told school-aged children that its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.

A growing number of JUUL lawsuits and class action claims have been filed nationwide. Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints brought throughout the federal court system, the JUUL litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where JUUL Labs, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters are located.

As JUUL addiction lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months, the litigation is expected to continue to grow, and is likely to encompass tens of thousands of complaints.

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