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Domenic B. Sanginiti, Jr. is an associate and member of the Accident & Personal Injury Group.

Juul sells e-cigarette liquid pods with very high levels of nicotine compared to competitors. This has brought increased scrutiny from the FDA and interest from researchers trying to evaluate the harmful effects of the “combustible” cigarette alternative.

A recent study by Stanford referred to the current e-cigarette market as “a nicotine arms race” as more and more competitors ratchet up e-cigarette nicotine levels to try to compete with Juul. Due to its high nicotine content, several lawsuits have been filed claiming the product was responsible for causing nicotine addiction.


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As shared many times in the past, tobacco companies own a large percentage of e-cigarette companies. Recently “Big Tobacco” company Altria acquired a $12.8 Billion stake in Juul, the cool-looking vaping device that now dominates the e-cigarette market.

The FDA voiced concerns that the investment contradicts commitments from both companies to address an epidemic of youth vaping. Juul has been under scrutiny, not only for its advertising and social media campaigns, but also because its liquids have historically had nicotine levels higher than other products.


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Desperate to shatter Juul’s recently-acquired, 70% dominance over the e-cigarette industry, competitors are increasing nicotine levels in their e-cigarette liquid pods. That does not bode well for the new generation of e-cigarette nicotine addicts and has generated what Stanford researchers have coined, “a nicotine arms race.”

Juul launched its e-cigarette officially in 2015 and has rapidly take over the market, due to a number of factors. Juul e-cigarettes present a subtle, USB-style design, with a patented “nicotine salts” delivery system that promises to deliver high levels of nicotine without a harsh inhaling experience. Equally effective is their clever advertising (See Stanford analysis of Juul advertising since inception).


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e-cigarette explosionA 24-year old man was tragically killed when an e-cigarette exploded, severing his carotid artery. The official cause of death was from a stroke caused by “penetrating trauma from exploding vaporizer pen.”

William Brown, known as “Eric” to family and friends, was running errands when the incident occurred. He was rushed to the hospital but died two days later from complications from the e-cigarette injury. It has not been reported which brand of e-cigarette Eric was using at the time of the incident.

It was only nine months ago that 38-year old Tallmadge D’Elia died of a projectile wound to the head from an exploding e-cigarette. The manufacturer of the e-cigarette he was using was contacted by an ABC affiliate station, WFTS who reported this response: “a representative from Smok-E Mountain tells us their devices do not explode, instead telling us it is likely an atomizer (the part a person inserts into their mouth) or a battery issue.”


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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced plans to “restrict” sales locations for flavored e-cigarettes that appeal to youth. The restriction, which falls far short of a ban, will require sales to take place only in “age-restricted in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification.”

The restriction does not apply to menthol, mint, or tobacco flavors because, ostensibly, these appeal in greater percentages to adults. Even so, Gottlieb cites that 20% of kids, roughly 720,000, choose menthol flavoring for e-cigarettes and 54% of minors who smoke combustible cigarettes choose menthol as well. A full ban against similar flavorings, i.e., those that appeal to youth and young adults, was issued for tobacco cigarettes in 2009.


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Did you know JUUL implemented a vaping prevention program targeted for use in schools? JUUL is the rapid-rise vaping company that makes e-cigarettes that look like USB units, and vaping liquids with high concentrations of nicotine. It has suffered heavy criticism for its appeal to underage youth and is being investigated by the FDA for targeting underage users in its advertising.

The vaping prevention program, which was created at the start of JUUL’s commercial launch in 2015, has also faced criticism, most recently in an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


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An 18-year-old developed wet lung and went into respiratory arrest three weeks after starting to vape. The young women entered the ER with stabbing chest pains and difficulty breathing, which got progressively worse until she went into respiratory failure and wound up on a ventilator.

Doctors diagnosed the young women with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also called wet lung. In the case study, pediatrician Casey Sommerfeld said, “chemicals in the e-cigarettes led to lung damage and inflammation” which gradually worsened. Wet lung can cause permanent lung damage if not treated quickly.
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Tragic news was released from Florida this week that a man who died on May 5, 2018, suffered a fatal injury from an e-cigarette explosion. The man died from a “projectile wound to the head,” and also suffered thermal burns on 80% of his body. Tallmadge D’Elia, who reportedly worked as a technical supervisor at CNBC in New Jersey, was only thirty-eight (38) years old.

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In response to growing concern about e-cigarette use by children and teens, the FDA has intensified its enforcement of illegal sales and advertising of new electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as Juul, myblu and KandyPens.

The FDA has stated it is committed to decreasing smoking and nicotine addiction in youth under the age of 18 and has launched several initiates to achieve this goal. One is a multi-level plan to reduce nicotine in traditional, combustible cigarettes. This plan, which seems long overdue, does not appear to include reduction in nicotine available via ENDS devices, despite that some deliver as much or more nicotine than cigarettes. The FDA also neglected to extend its ban on the use of sweet, fruity flavors that appeal to children and teens. Juul, for example, comes with fruit-flavored liquid pods containing the nicotine equivalent of a full pack of cigarettes.


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The Tobacco Advertising Collection at the Smithsonian Institution contains more than 30,000 examples of cigarette advertising by tobacco companies. Entitled “Not a Cough in a Carload: Images from the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking,” the twelve-part archive series, created by Dr. Robert Jacklar, emphasizes the deceptive advertising practices used to convince people that tobacco products were safe.

Dr. Jacklar, who treated many patients for cigarette-related illnesses and later lost his mother to cancer, is now creating a similar collection—this time with e-cigarette advertisements. According to Jacklar there is little difference in the messaging. He has reportedly collected 13,000 examples of deceptive e-cigarette ads and is vocally adamant that the industry is ignoring all of the agreements and bans that were agreed to by tobacco companies. Referencing the new Juul product as an example, Jacklar was quoted in Smithsonian to say, ““Very clearly, they do the same damn thing today as they did then. The messaging is very subtle, very carefully crafted…to appeal to adolescents.”


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