Goza & Honnold is filing lawsuits against e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs Inc. on behalf of school districts locally and across the country. Our lawyers are working to regain the resources schools have expended battling the national epidemic of teenage nicotine addiction.
In a 2019 study, a team with Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising concluded that JUUL’s marketing clearly targeted teens and young adults, many of whom did not understand the dangers of the company’s vape pens. The result has been a growing population of kids addicted to nicotine. Schools have spent significant time and money trying to control vaping on school grounds, finding much of their work has little effect on kids who simply can’t quit. Educators have told our lawyers they are committed to helping their students, and we are assisting them in the fight.
Our firm and co-counsel filed the first lawsuits of this kind in Kansas, Missouri, and New York. For media coverage on the suits, please click the links below.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently sent a warning letter to e-cigarette maker JUUL regarding illegal and youth-targeted marketing. The letter came only three days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a vaping-related lung illness has caused numerous deaths in the United States.
Lung Illness Tied to Use of E-Cigarettes
As of late September 2019, 805 people from 46 different states have developed symptoms associated with a respiratory condition linked to vaping, and safety officials still do not know exactly how e-cigarettes cause the illness. The CDC first alerted the public to the outbreak in August, when numerous patients in the country came down with an unexplained lung illness.
Officials have eliminated infectious disease as the source of the illness, and the only known connection between all of the patients is use of e-cigarettes. The CDC has been working with state health officials to come up with a uniform definition for the illness in order to classify cases consistently.
Patients who have confirmed cases of the respiratory illness present with the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
Patients’ symptoms vary in degree and in onset. Many patients have been admitted to intensive care units and have been intubated because of the severity of their symptoms. Twelve patients in 10 states have died from the illness, according to the CDC. Doctors have reported no associated lung infections, and the illness generally does not respond to antibiotics.
The CDC is recommending that while the investigation continues, people should refrain from using e-cigarette products. Regardless of the investigation, however, the CDC states that pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes, and youth and young adults should not use e-cigarettes. Of the vaping-related lung illness patients for whom the CDC has identifying information (771 out of 805), 16 percent are under the age of 18, 22 percent are between the ages of 18 and 21, and 62 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34.
FDA Warns JUUL About Illegal Marketing, Targeting Youth
On September 9, the FDA sent a letter to the CEO of JUUL Labs Inc., Kevin Burns, saying that the agency had found the company in violation of federal regulations with regard to the marketing of its e-cigarettes. JUUL has advertised its vaping devices as “modified risk tobacco products,” according to the FDA, meaning the company is leading consumers to believe its e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes.
This advertising is unlawful, the FDA said, because the FDA has never issued an appropriate order for JUUL as a modified risk tobacco product or approved JUUL as a cigarette-smoking cessation device. Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D., stated that to claim its product is less harmful than combustible cigarettes, JUUL is required to present scientific evidence of such. Of special concern to the FDA, Sharpless said, is that JUUL has been making these claims to kids, even giving a presentation at a school.
“JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth,” Sharpless said in a press announcement.
The FDA identified several troubling statements discussed during Congressional testimony at a July 2019 hearing. The testimony indicated that a JUUL representative told children at a school presentation that JUUL was “much safer than cigarettes,” that the FDA was about to approve the device, that the FDA was going to tell the public that JUUL was “99 percent safer than cigarettes,” and that students should tell their friends who smoke cigarettes to use JUUL, instead.
“We remain committed to using all available tools to ensure that e-cigarettes and other tobacco products aren’t being marketed or sold to kids,” Sharpless said. “We’ve also put the industry on notice: If the disturbing rise in youth e-cigarette use continues, especially through the use of flavors that appeal to kids, we’ll take even more aggressive action.”
In its letter to JUUL, the FDA requested a written answer within 15 business days as to the company’s plans to correct its advertising and to comply with federal regulations. The agency further requested additional information on the use of nicotine salts in JUUL’s products, which have been said to mask nicotine harshness, and on the nicotine concentration of JUUL’s pods. JUUL’s products currently have a 5 percent nicotine concentration, which the FDA says is a concerning amount that can potentially lead to higher instances of addiction.
The FDA also noted in its press announcement that it was working with the CDC to investigate the respiratory illnesses tied to vaping.
What is JUUL?
JUUL is a brand of electronic cigarette, more commonly referred to as an e-cigarette. JUUL e-cigarettes are both high-tech and easily concealable. The smoking device resembles a USB flash drive and can be charged in the USB port of a computer. JUUL is promoted as an alternative to combustible cigarettes for adults but has been widely criticized by the Food and Drug Administration and the general public for youth use of the product. JUUL’s sleek design, combined with its variety of pod flavors, has contributed to its growing popularity among youth. The device has become so common among teens that the term “JUULing” has been devised to signify the practice of using it. The product’s impressive rise in popularity has prompted public health officials to declare a “youth e-cigarette ‘epidemic’ that could be the “health problem of the decade.” Products like JUUL are addicting a new generation of young people and risks reversing the decades of progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use.
Who makes JUUL?
PAX Labs introduced the JUUL electronic cigarette in 2015 before JUUL Labs spun out as an independent company in 2017. Since 2017, JUUL Labs has taken the e-cigarette market by storm. The company was founded by former smokers and University of Stanford graduates, James Monsees and Adam Bowen. While graduate students and before founding JUUL, James Monsees and Adam Bowen created a company called Ploom and later developed the PAX Vaporizer, a device for cannabis and loose-leaf tobacco. According to the JUUL website, the company was founded “with the goal of improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” The company’s headquarters are in San Francisco, and as of 2018, JUUL Labs employed over 1,500 people. On December 20, 2018, Altria bought a 35 percent stake in JUUL for $12.8 billion, and according to Wells Fargo, the deal valued JUUL Labs at $38 billion. JUUL became the most popular e-cigarette in the United States by the end of 2017 and now enjoys a 72 percent share of the e-cigarette market.
How does JUUL work?
JUUL devices are battery operated and work by heating pods of e-liquid which contain nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. When the JUUL pod is heated, the liquid becomes an aerosol that is inhaled by users. JUUL claims one pod is roughly equal to a pack of cigarettes, or 200 cigarette puffs. According to a Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control, 63 percent of young people who use JUUL don’t realize the product always contains nicotine. JUUL pods are available in sweet flavors including mango, fruit, cucumber, crème brulee and mint.
How is JUUL different from other e-cigarettes?
JUUL has one of the highest levels of nicotine among e-cigarettes available on the market. Before JUUL, e-cigarette and vaping liquids had nicotine concentrations mostly between 1.5% and 2.4%. Using nicotine salts rather than the freebase nicotine used by other manufacturers, JUUL entered the e-cigarette market in 2015 with an e-liquid that had a nicotine content of 5%. The manufacturer claims that JUUL delivers nicotine more effectively and at higher doses than other e-cigarette brands. JUUL is more discreet and disguisable in comparison to other e-cigarette brands, which is one reason it is so popular among youth and young adults. A JUUL device is small enough to fit in the palm of a closed hand. JUUL’s entrance into the e-cigarette market has sparked a “nicotine arms race” resulting in numerous knockoff devices which match, and at times exceed JUUL’s already extremely high nicotine content level.
How did JUUL get so popular?
E-cigarette use has increased overall in the past few years, particularly among youth and young adults. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 2 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2017. Today, the use of e-cigarettes is higher among high school students than adults. According to the CDC, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by a shocking 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. A Truth Initiative survey found that nearly one in five middle and high school students have seen JUUL used in school. According to a research letter by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, JUUL e-cigarette sales increased 641 percent from 2016 to 2017. Despite the company’s claim that it only markets to adult smokers, the early company-sponsored advertising, social media promotion and experiential marketing seemed aimed at youth and young adults.
Where are kids getting JUUL?
In April 2018, the Truth Initiative surveyed a national sample of more than 1,000 12- to 17- year-olds to find out how young people are getting JUUL. The most common way youth got JUUL was through physical retail locations (74 percent), which includes gas stations, convenience stores and vape shops. 52 percent of those surveyed said they received JUUL from a social source like a friend or family member. Only 6 percent reported that they received the product from online, however, 89 percent of those who attempted an online transaction were successful.
Why do youth use JUUL?
Using data from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration examined self-reported reasons for using e-cigarettes among middle and high school students. According to the report, the most common reason students use e-cigarettes was that a friend or family member used them (39 percent). The second most common reason for underage e-cigarette use was found to be due to the availability of flavors, such as candy, mint or fruit (31 percent). The belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of tobacco, such as cigarettes, accounted for the third most common reason youth use e-cigarettes (17.1 percent). According to a Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control, 15- to 17-year-olds are sixteen times more likely to use JUUL compared with those aged 25-34.
What are the risks associated with JUUL?
Nicotine is harmful to adolescent brain development and can affect attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction. Youth and young adults are at risk for long-term effects of nicotine exposure on their developing brains. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, these risks include addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Because of JUUL’s high nicotine content level and youth’s susceptibility to addiction, JUULing increases the risk of becoming a regular cigarette smoker. According to a December 2017 study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, young adults who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to begin smoking combustible cigarettes within 18 months. The risk of addiction is so high that the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that any and all use of nicotine by youth is unsafe. The FDA states that 90 percent of adults in the United States who currently smoke were already smokers by age 18. The aerosol from e-cigarettes is not harmless, as vapes have been found to contain lead, nickel, tin, silver, formaldehyde, manganese, toluene, and other chemicals linked to cancer and central nervous system problems. Health problems caused by tobacco use include, but are not limited to, tooth decay, damaged metabolism, frequent coughing and breathing issues, and increased phlegm. Not only can kids become addicted to nicotine through the use of JUUL, but they can also develop serious injuries like seizures and lung damage. These injuries could be related to the flavored pods and ingestible nicotine in JUUL devices. Scientists are working to fully understand the health effects of e-cigarette use, both for users who inhale from a device directly and those exposed to the aerosol secondhand.
What is being done to stop JUUL?
Although the companies deny it, it is evident that JUUL and Altria have an interest in addicting a new generation of smokers and gaining customers for life. JUUL’s explosive growth and immense popularity have drawn scrutiny as the company faces FDA regulation and lawsuits. There are currently pending lawsuits against JUUL, Altria, and Philip Morris, alleging that the companies targeted youth and young adults through misleading marketing on social media and other advertising platforms. Many of the lawsuits have been filed by parents on behalf of their children who have become addicted to nicotine as a result of JUUL. The lawsuits are based on theories of design defect, failure to warn, unjust enrichment, fraud, negligence, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. On June 13, 2019, the United States House of Representatives launched an investigation into the e-cigarette company looking into the company’s social media and advertising practices, while also seeking documents related to the company’s deal last year with Altria. In addition, the attorney general of North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against JUUL for the company’s advertising in the state, alleging that the company sought to attract and retain customers who were underage. It is expected that JUUL will continue to face regulations and lawsuits, while the company’s popularity among youth and young adults may become its ultimate downfall.
Our attorneys are investigating cases related to nicotine addiction and other injuries from JUUL e-cigarettes, including stroke, seizures, heart attack, lung damage, and asthma exacerbation, in teenagers and young adults. While JUUL and tobacco company Altria claim a shared desire to prevent kids from using their products, we believe the companies’ actions tell a different story.
If you have or your child has become addicted to nicotine or developed another injury because of a JUUL device, please feel free to contact our office to discuss a potential case. We are also happy to investigate potential referral cases regarding JUUL injuries.
The attorneys at Goza & Honnold are happy to review your case, and we thank you for the trust you place in our firm.
Disclaimer: This blog post could be considered attorney advertising. It is not intended as legal advice. This blog post is intended to inform, and receipt or reply does not create an attorney-client relationship. The choice of counsel is an important decision that should be made after investigation into a firm and should not be based on advertising alone.
Kansas City undoubtedly has some excellent health care facilities, but no providers are immune to mistakes. When a health care provider acts negligently and causes harm to you or a loved one, you have the right to have your potential claim investigated and possibly file a lawsuit. It becomes imperative you employ experienced and trusted medical malpractice lawyers such as Goza & Honnold.
Though the facts of every case are different, there are types of medical mistakes that occur often. During the many years Goza & Honnold has represented individuals and their families in Kansas and Missouri, they have litigated numerous cases involving:
Failure to Diagnose
Appropriate treatment begins with a correct and timely diagnosis. Each time you are ill, your doctor performs a diagnostic workup to rule out potential causes and arrive at the correct diagnosis. But if your doctor fails to correctly diagnose you, your treatment will not be effective, and your symptoms can worsen. Depending on the nature of the actual illness and the time that passes before administration of appropriate treatment, injuries due to a failure to diagnose can be severe.
Adequate communication among health care providers is often critical, especially when it comes to providing patients medications. Medication errors can occur when a doctor prescribes the wrong medication, when a nurse takes an order down incorrectly, or when a pharmacy fills the wrong prescription. The prescription might be inappropriate for the patient’s diagnosed condition, or it might be contraindicated, given the patient’s health history. These errors can lead to severe reactions, including respiratory reactions, anaphylaxis, and even death.
Pregnancy and Delivery Errors
There is no experience greater than the birth of a child. Sometimes, however, things can and do go wrong during labor. Time becomes critical. Doctors and nurses need to diligently monitor both mothers and babies for any indications of fetal distress or medical complication. A missed warning sign or delay in appropriate care can result in serious birth injuries, such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, and even death.
Patients in the hospital are often at their most vulnerable. Hospital patients have been in an accident, have a serious illness, are recovering from surgery, and might be taking strong medications. Hospital staff are trained to look for and evaluate conditions that place patients at risk for falls. The hospital staff assign each patient a “fall score,” which helps determine the level of care needed to prevent a hospital fall. Unfortunately, patients often do not receive adequate assistance, and a fall occurs that results in broken bones, hip fractures, and sometimes, serious head injuries.
Published by Goza & Honnold
Contact Goza & Honnold
If you believe you have a potential medical malpractice case in Kansas City or the surrounding area, contact Goza & Honnold today for a free case consultation. You can speak with one of our skilled medical negligence attorneys by calling (913) 451-3433.
With national attention increasingly focused on opioid abuse in America, we continue to learn more about the true magnitude of the crisis. Opioid misuse has now reached the level of a Public Health Emergency, with millions of Americans battling addiction to prescription painkillers and seeking help from pharmaceutical negligence lawyers.
According to recent data, approximately 90 people in the United States die every single day from opioid overdose, and more than 2 million people are currently struggling with prescription opioid abuse. Abuse of prescription opioids also leads to use of illegal opioids, as people begin to experience difficulty obtaining prescription refills and fight against the crippling feelings of withdrawal. An estimated 6 percent of people who abuse their prescription opioids go on to use heroin, and a startling 80 percent of heroin users report taking prescription opioids first.
In addition to the physical and emotional damage, opioid abuse has also had tremendous financial impact on our country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates the annual economic burden of opioid abuse in the United States has reached $75 billion and continues to climb. Included in this estimate are costs of medical treatment, creation and maintenance of addiction programs, lost job productivity, and criminal justice intervention.
The Reason Behind the Numbers
We believe the opioid crisis is at least in part rooted in the drug manufacturers’ spread of misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of prescription opioids, as well as concealment of the extreme addictiveness of these painkillers. Manufacturer conduct combined with inappropriate prescribing practices led to an absolute explosion of both legal and illegal opioid painkiller sales and use.
Giving the Numbers a Voice
As families cope with addiction, loss of loved ones, and life-altering injuries, they are looking for answers and for justice. Goza & Honnold’s experienced product liability attorneys are currently investigating prescription opioid painkiller cases, and our firm offers confidential case consultations at no cost to you.
Published by Goza & Honnold