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Amid increasing concerns about the public health risks associated with e-cigarettes and the rising problems with teen nicotine addiction from vaping, a new report suggests that the electronic devices are also leading to serious environmental concerns.
Vaping exposes users to toxic chemicals and extremely high nicotine delivery rates. Furthermore, e-cigarettes have been at the heart of the recent vaping lung illness outbreak, which lead to more than 2,800 reported injuries nationwide, including nearly 70 deaths.
In addition to the widespread health implications, e-cigarettes are now drawing concerns from environmental activists, as there is increasing evidence that they are contributing to electronic waste issues and fires at recycling facilities.
Not only can the nicotine residue and e-liquid cause environmental concerns in the nation’s oceans and water systems; but the lithium ion batteries can pose fire risks in recycling and waste facilities, according to a recent ABC News Report.
The Ocean Conservancy, an organization which conducts beach clean ups and runs the Trash Free Seas Program, recently reported that more and more e-cigarette products are appearing on the country’s beaches. While the primary type of trash is cigarette butts, the organization is cleaning up more and more vapes and other e-cigarette products.
The organization warned there may be a huge shift in an increase in e-cigarette trash in the coming years. However, e-cigarettes are relatively new products, so there is a lack of data on their likely environmental impact.
Currently, about 6.7 million adults indicate they regularly use e-cigarettes and more than 5 million high school students said they vape. In fact, vaping has become the most popular form of tobacco use among teens in the U.S. and more teens vape when candy-like flavors are used.
E-cigarettes are made of plastic, but they break down into smaller plastics which persist in the environment, experts say. An increase in the number of users has resulted in increases of plastic in the environment from vaping products, environmentalists warn.
Environmentalists are also concerned over the nicotine residue, liquid, and flavoring in vapes that can leach into the water supply and environment.
Furthermore, e-cigarettes are powered by lithium ion batteries, which experts say should be disposed of in a specific way to prevent environmental damage and to prevent fire risks at recycling and waste disposal centers.
E-cigarette manufacturers do not include recycling or waste information for vape products, and the recycling company Terra Cycle said a recycling program launched for e-cigarettes has not been successful. The devices and products simply are not designed with recycling and the environment in mind.
Beginning in May 2020, manufacturers will be required to submit the environmental impact information as part any the application to sell e-cigarettes made to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In addition, the National Stewardship Action Council is working on a bill in California to increase e-cigarette recycling rates by including recycling redemption values. Vaping manufacturer giant JUUL has also said it is increasing recycling and take back programs on vape products.
JUUL already faces criminal investigations, federal regulatory crackdowns and lawsuits over its promotion of its JUUL vaping products.
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.