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The makers of JUUL now face a wrongful death lawsuit, which has been filed by the mother of a Florida teen who allegedly died due to side effects of vaping, after becoming addicted to nicotine in the e-cigarette.
Lisa Marie Vail filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on October 15, blaming JUUL for the death of her son, Daniel David Wakefield.
The teen died due to respiratory problems linked to vaping on August 31, 2018, and the case is believed to be the first wrongful death lawsuit filed against JUUL, and possibly the first linked to vaping respiratory illnesses that have sickened 1,300 people nationwide and killed nearly 30 people nationwide.
JUUL is a popular e-cigarette introduced in 2015, which has been aggressively marketed to teens through social media and other campaigns, causing it to become the most widely used vaping product in the U.S. JUUL pods are designed to look like USB drives, allowing students to hide their vaping habit from teachers, parents and other adults.
While teens were led to believe that the products were safe, “JUULing” involves exposure to large amounts of nicotine, and has resulted in a new generation of Americans addicted to vaping.
According to Vail’s lawsuit, her son began using JUUL when he was 15, attracted by the company’s candy-like flavor, design, and claims it was a healthier habit than cigarette. The lawsuit indicates he became addicted to JUULing, then he became ill with the severe respiratory illness that took his life.
“Less than a year after he began using JUUL, Wakefield was hospitalized for three days due to breathing and lung complications at Saint Joseph’s North Children’s Hospital,” the lawsuit states. “He was so addicted to JUUL that hospital staff affixed nicotine patches to Wakefield’s skin throughout his hospitalization.”
Despite experiencing these lung problems, the teen continued using JUUL until August 31, 2018, when he died in his sleep at his father’s house, due to breathing complications.
JUUL Teen Epidemic
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 nicotine addiction problems among teens in the United States, as a result of the design of their product and marketing that intentionally targeted teens and prior non-smokers.
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.
A recent study indicated that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Another study warns that vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.
On September 9, 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.
In addition, federal and state health experts are investigating the cause of widespread respiratory illness linked to JUUL and other vaping products. However, it is unclear whether Wakefield is counted among the 30 deaths reported nationwide. The FDA is also investigating whether JUUL is linked to nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
The lawsuit joins a number of other lawsuits filed against the makers of JUUL, pursuing damages for teens and young adults whose first use of nicotine came through the e-cigarettes, resulting in a life-long habit that also carries serious health risks. However, this is believed to be the first wrongful death claim.