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Electronic cigarettes (“e-cigs”, “vapes”, and other portable electronic smoking devices) have recently been linked to serious side effects including lung disease, respiratory illness, bronchitis obliterans (popcorn lung), and also been reported to explode during use, causing severe burns, mouth injuries, and even death.
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Table Of Contents

Side Effects of E-Cigarettes

  • Severe lung disease
  • Respiratory illness
  • Bronchitis Obliterans (“Popcorn Lung”)
  • Burns/scarring from injuries involving exploding e-cigarette batteries
  • Nicotine poisoning/toxicity
  • Pneumonia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Disorientation
  • Seizure
  • Death
  • And more

Dozens of Deaths, Thousands of Lung Injuries from Vaping, CDC Says

October 4, 2019 – The number of vaping lung disease cases has jumped to at least 1,080 — including 18 deaths [1] — in 48 states and 1 U.S. territory following last month’s warning by the FDA, in which the agency reported 530 lung illnesses and 7 deaths associated with the devices. Confirmed deaths from vape lung disease occurred in the following states: Alabama, California (2), Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (2), Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon (2), and Virginia. More deaths are under investigation, according to the CDC.

Do Not Use E-Cigarettes or Vapes, AMA Warns

September 18, 2019 – Consumers should avoid using e-cigarettes, vapes, and similar products until health officials can investigate the more than 200 cases of severe lung illness associated with the devices, according to the American Medical Association (AMA) [2].

“In light of increasing reports of e-cigarette-associated lung illnesses across the country, the AMA urges the public to avoid the use of e-cigarette products until health officials further investigate and understand the cause of these illnesses,” said Patrice A. Harris, MD, president of the AMA. “The AMA recommends anyone who has recently used e-cigarette products to seek medical care promptly if they experience any adverse health effects, particularly coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain.”

The announcement follows news of another vape-related death from lung infection, the 6th to date in the U.S., according to NBC.

FDA Issues Warning on “Severe Respiratory Disease” Linked to E-Cig/Vape Use

August 30, 2019 – At least 215 potential cases of severe respiratory disease in 25 states, in addition to patients with pulmonary illness, are being investigated in connection with the use of e-cigarettes and similar devices by the FDA, according to Safety Communication [3] issued on Friday. Most patients presented with a gradual onset of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain before hospitalization

Some patients reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fevers
  • Fatigue

In addition to the CDC investigation, states are completing their own probes into the cases based on a newly-released federal standardized case definition. If you use e-cigarettes or vapes, and are concerned about these findings, FDA recommends that you refrain from use and consult your physician.

Vapes Linked to Increased Risk for Seizures

April 8, 2019 – FDA is warning about a link between the use of e-cigarette or “vapes” and an increased risk for seizures, as dozens of consumers have reported having the episodes while using them or shortly after. Since 2010, the agency has received at least 35 reports of seizure in e-cigarette users — both novice and experienced, young and older — making an exact cause for the brain episodes harder to diagnose.

Texas Man Dies From Vape Explosion

February 14, 2019 – An exploding e-cigarette caused a man from Fort Worth, Texas, to suffer brain injuries so catastrophic they resulted in his death from a severed carotid artery, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The victim, 24-year-old William Brown, was at a vaporizer store in Keller, Texas, when the fatal incident occurred. His grandmother says he had just purchased the vape and was using it for the first time in her car when it exploded in his mouth. Brown died 2 days later at a local hospital.

The Smoke and Vape DZ shop said Brown wanted help using a Mechanical Mod style vape pen, and that the shop manager later called police after seeing him on the ground in the parking lot.

E-Cigarette Lawsuit Filed in Kansas

April 30, 2018 – A Kansas man who claims the spare battery to his electronic cigarette exploded inside his pocket and caused him severe burn injuries has filed a products liability lawsuit against the vape shop where he purchased the device.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 6 in Sedgwick County District Court, the Plaintiff was carrying the spare lithium-ion battery for his e-cigarette in the front pocket of his slacks when the event occurred.

The explosion was the result of metal from some of the other items plaintiff had in his pocket interacting with the spare battery in a way that caused a short leading to a “thermal runway,” according to the lawsuit. When this occurred, the battery ignited and burst into flames like a “flame thrower,” the plaintiff said, causing chemical and thermal burns to his left leg and hands, which required skin grafts to heal.

Plaintiff is suing the vape shop where he purchased the battery, as well as the distributor, VapeUSA Corp, for at least $75,000 in damages.

Ex-Navy Seal Suffers Burns, Laceration in Vape Explosion

May 15, 2017 – A U.S. Navy veteran from Dallas, Texas, who claims he was severely burned when his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket has filed a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, retailer, and distributor of the device. Plaintiff Matthew Bonestele claims that his LG Chem HG2 18650 battery exploded in his right pants pocket, causing third-degree burns to his right leg and puncturing his right thigh.

Navy Bans E-Cigarettes Over Exploding Battery Concerns

April 18, 2017 – The U.S. Navy is banning e-cigarettes and portable vaporizers from its aircraft, ships, and submarines after receiving multiple reports of the devices’ batteries exploding, catching fire and injuring sailors. Malfunctioning e-cigs have forced at least one aircraft to land, started fires on ships and left multiple sailors with severe burns. Vape injuries have occurred when the devices were being used, charged or replaced, or when they came into contact with other metal objects.

Read More: E-Cigarette Explosion Lawsuit

1 in 4 Children Exposed to Secondhand Smoke from E-Cigs, CDC Study Finds

April 3, 2017 – About 1 in 4 teens in the U.S. are exposed to potentially dangerous secondhand vapors from e-cigarettes, according to a new study from the CDC.

The study [4] found that as the number of teens using electronic cigarettes or ”vapes” has increased dramatically over the past decade, so too has the number of young people exposed to secondhand smoke from the devices grown.

Children who were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke were also more likely to be exposed to secondhand vapor from e-cigarettes, CDC found.

The study indicated that teens exposed to secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes were about 40% more likely to be exposed to secondhand e-cigarette vapors, compared to about 8% for children who were not exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Among students who reported secondhand electronic cigarette exposure, 67% were current e-cigarette users. About 29% were former users and 16% had never used the devices.

Electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product by teens in the U.S. after manufacturers targeted this demographic by marketing “candy-like” flavors.

CDC warned that aerosol is produced when e-cigarettes are heated, and that vapor is exhaled into the air, where non-users can inhale it or be affected by dermal contact. The vapor may contain harmful substances like nicotine, heavy metals and benzene vapors, which are known human carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

Data from the 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) [5] found that nearly 25% of middle school and high school students in the U.S. were exposed to e-cigarette vapors in an indoor or outdoor location at least once over the past month, which equates to about 6.5 million children.

The Surgeon General warned in December that e-cigarettes pose a serious health concern to the nation’s youth.

E-Cigarettes a “Major Health Concern,” Surgeon General Says

January 16, 2017 – A new report (PDF) from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling e-cigarette use among young people a “major health concern,” adding to a heated debate over whether the practice is safer than traditional cigarette smoking.

The Surgeon General’s report found that e-cigarette or “vape” use among U.S. high school students has jumped 900% since 2011, as vape shops have become widespread.

The report also described in scientific terms how young people with developing brains are sensitive to nicotine, a substance that is highly addictive, and criticized the e-cigarette industry for marketing to teens with candy-flavored vape juice.

What the report does not do — because not enough time has passed for comprehensive studies to be completed — is say for certain whether vapes are replacing traditional cigarettes for teens or simply getting more of them hooked on nicotine.

But waiting for the data could be a mistake if you’re worried about a nicotine-addicted kid, according to the report.

“We have a narrow window to act to implement proven policies that can prevent adolescent use,” said Erika Seward, assistant vice president for advocacy for the American Lung Association (ALA) [6], which hailed the surgeon general’s report. “We can’t let that window close.”

With their massive popularity, vapes have surpassed traditional cigarettes as the most commonly-used tobacco product among teenagers and young adults in the U.S. Surgeon General Murthy notes that “e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults, including combustible tobacco products.”

However, “associated” means the causation can run in either direction. If vape users are also more likely to have used regular cigarettes, it could mean they used vapes to quit smoking or it could mean e-cigarettes were a gateway to traditional smoking.

FDA to Investigate Exploding E-Cigarette Batteries

January 4, 2017 – The FDA is planning to hold a 2-day meeting in April to discuss the dangers of exploding batteries in electronic cigarettes.

The Associated Press reported last month that the FDA had identified at least 66 e-cigarette explosions between 2015 and early 2016. The batteries overheated caught fire and/or blew up, according to the AP.

Researchers from the University of Washington Regional Burn Center in Seattle reported in October that they had treated at least 22 people for burns and other injuries associated with exploding e-cigarettes over the previous year, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The researchers said that e-cigarette users have been maimed or burned by exploding batteries, and there have been reports of teeth and facial bones being shattered.

“Once we realized this was a trend at our center, we felt the need to get the word out,” said Dr. Elisha Brownson, lead author of the NEJM study. “We want consumers to know this is a risk.”

According to the CDC [7], about 3 million middle and high school students used electronic cigarettes in 2015, up from about 2.46 million the year before.

Among adults who tried to quit smoking in 2014, over half had tried e-cigs as an alternative, and more than 20% started using them. Slightly over 3% of people who had never smoked tried the devices, but what has troubled health officials is that young adults between ages 18 and 24 were the highest number of new users.

Lawsuits Allege Vapes Exploded, Burned Florida Men

November 29, 2016 – Two Florida men who allegedly suffered severe burns from exploding e-cigarettes have filed lawsuits against vape manufacturers and retailers of the devices.

A malfunctioning vape exploded in James Dardini’s pocket shortly after he arrived to work in Clermont, Florida, in December 2015. His injuries required emergency room treatment and surgery in a burn unit, according to a lawsuit filed in Volusia Circuit Court.

Another lawsuit was filed in the same court on behalf of James Lauria, a 23-year-old man from Cobb County, Georgia, who suffered severe injuries after his e-cig blew up in his face while he was vaping on July 29, 2015. According to the lawsuit, Lauria had the device in his mouth when it exploded, and the next thing he remembers is lying in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

His injuries were so severe that he had to be flown to the University of Alabama’s burn unit, where he spent more than a week in the ICU.

Unfortunately, events like these are not rare and have been popping up in the media on an almost weekly basis. E-cigarette explosions have been reported to occur when the devices’ batteries are damaged or subjected to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.

A short circuit can cause the battery to overheat, catch fire and even explode. These problems tend to occur most often in cheaply made pen vapes, according to Wired [8].

E-Cigarette Explosion Burns 14-Year-Old Girl on Harry Potter Ride

October 4, 2016 – A girl on the Hogwarts Express ride at Universal Orlando received mild to moderate burns after an e-cigarette exploded in a nearby college student’s pocket, according to FOX News [9].

A total of 8 people were inside the train’s compartment when the incident occurred — 3 teenage boys and a family of 5 from Tennessee.

According to Orlando police, the vape exploded inside the pocket of one of the teens. The 14-year-old girl was injured on her right side and taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to be treated.

Police say the teen whose pocket the e-cig exploded in was likely injured as well, but he and his friends fled the scene before officers could be notified. The ride was temporarily shut down but has since reopened.

From 2009 to August 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received at least 25 reports of fire and explosion linked to vapes and other similar portable smoking devices. Nine injuries — including 2 serious burns — were associated with these incidents.

According to FEMA, the shape and construction of e-cigarettes make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like “flaming rockets” when a battery fails. Vape batteries should always be charged according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as using unapproved power sources to charge the batteries can result in an explosion and/or fire, according to the agency.

Study Reports on How to Improve Safety of E-Cigarettes

August 1, 2016 – E-cigarettes could be made safer by improving control over their operating temperature and reducing deposits on heating elements, according to a new study.

The study, published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology [10], could help decrease the risks of e-cigarettes while retaining the benefits of a smoking cessation device.

FDA recently announced tougher restrictions on e-cigarettes, but vaping advocates say the move could seriously hinder the innovation which has made the devices attractive as an alternative to traditional smoking. Most vape juices contain flavorings and unregulated levels of nicotine.

For the study, a research team led by Hugo Destaillats looked at chemicals from 2 types of electronic cigarettes emitted through the use of a puffing simulator. One was a cheaper device with a single heating coil; the other more expensive with 2 heating coils. The devices were tested with 3 kinds of e-cigarette juice, operated at different battery voltages.

Vapes typically emit fewer harmful chemicals including diacetyl, formaldehyde, and acrolein compared to tobacco cigarettes. So researchers generally agree that the devices provide a significant health benefit over traditional smokes. For those who haven’t been able to quit by other means, e-cigarettes may provide a solution, according to the study’s authors.

But researchers are divided as to whether e-cigs have been proven to be helpful as a general tool for stopping smoking, and what level of risk the devices pose. Some studies have even concluded that e-cigarette use actually makes it harder to quit smoking [11].

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Orange County Man Hospitalized After E-Cigarette Explodes in His Mouth

June 10, 2016 – A man from Tustin, CA., spent a week in the hospital after an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth, according to CBS News [12]. 26-year-old Jesse Milk suffered second-degree burns and had a piece of the vape lodged in his tongue when he arrived at the hospital.

“He had to be taken to surgery immediately so that this part of the E-cigarette that was embedded in his tongue had to be removed, and then his tongue had to be repaired, along with the lip area around it,” said Andrea Dunkelman, director of the OC Burn Center.

Oklahoma Man Sues Vape Store After Device Explodes in his Mouth

June 8, 2016 – A 22-year-old man from Muskogee, OK., has filed a lawsuit against a local vape shop after an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth, according to FOX23 News [13]. Plaintiff Michael Williams is suing E-Ciggeez, an e-cigarette store in Muskogee, alleging the company was negligent in their marketing and sale of the device. Williams claims he was permanently disfigured and suffered vision damage as a result of the explosion; the complaint also names the manufacturer and company who made the casing as defendants.

Tennessee Man Suffers Broken Neck, Multiple Injuries from Exploding E-Cigarette

May 31, 2016 – A 29-year-old man from Memphis, Tennessee, suffered a broken neck, facial fractures, shattered teeth, and severe burns after an electronic cigarette manufactured by Kangertech exploded in his mouth.

Cordero Caples was hospitalized in Colorado Springs, CO., last November and forced to undergo spinal surgery, according to CBS News [13]. He spent 10 days in the hospital and still has not been able to return to his job as an automobile detailer.

“He has a hard time moving his body,” said Colessia Porter, Caples’ sister. “How much of a range of motion he’ll have is something we just don’t know.”

According to the Colorado Springs Fire Department, emergency crews responded to the call at Caples’ place of employment, and the incident is still under investigation. While most e-cigarette explosions have caused burns and related injuries, Caples is unique in that he suffered a broken neck, together with his other injuries.

Idaho Man Injured by Exploding E-Cigarette

May 24, 2016 – A man from Idaho Falls, Idaho, suffered third-degree burns after he says an electronic cigarette exploded in his pocket.

Trey Furniss says he switched to an electronic vape after smoking cigarettes for 12 years. Furniss says he made the switch because the devices are marketed as a “safer alternative” to traditional smoking. He’s not so sure now, however, after being sent to the hospital with third-degree burns after an e-cig exploded in his pocket last month at the Grand Teton Mall.

“We were putting the kids shoes on and I felt something get hot in my pocket and so I put my hand in my pocket and it just blew up… and white flames just shot out of the side of my pocket,” Furniss said.

He says he still has no idea why his vape exploded, although similar explosions have been caused by people using the wrong batteries or putting batteries inside their pocket with change. Furniss claims the electronic cigarette was the only thing in his pocket at the time of the explosion.

“Everything on mine {vape} was good,” he said. “Any advice I could give, just don’t, just don’t do it at all.”

California Man Files Lawsuit After Losing Eye in E-Cigarette Explosion

May 23, 2016 – A California man who says he lost an eye from an exploding e-cigarette has filed a products liability lawsuit against several e-cig manufacturers and retailers.

Orange County resident Joseph Cavins took up smoking electronic cigarettes 2 years ago in an attempt to kick his tobacco chewing habit. He was using one of the devices at his computer desk last month when suddenly he heard a loud crack.

“It felt like a metal baseball bat had hit the side of my face,” Cavins said.

The vape exploded, bounced off his left eye and landed on a bookshelf, where it started a fire. Cavins’ wife, Pat, helped him put out the fire and drove him to an emergency room. Doctors said the vape hit his face so hard that it cracked his eye socket and sinus bones, and left shrapnel embedded in his eyeball, which they were unable to save.

Cavins told the Orange County Register [14] that he is recovering and now wears an eye patch. He recently returned to work as a therapist for special-education students and plans to get a prosthetic eye this summer after the healing process is complete.

On March 19, Cavins filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against several e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers, including 2 in Orange County — Vape It Up and The Vapor Loft. The case is just the most recent of dozens of similar complaints recently filed throughout California:

  • Jennifer Ries of Corona was badly burned in 2013 when an e-cigarette exploded in her car and showered hot metal onto her dress. A Riverside County jury awarded her $1.9 million for her injuries.
  • A 29-year-old Santa Ana man was vaping in his bedroom in March 2015 when the device exploded, sending shrapnel into his hand and setting part of his bedroom on fire.
  • In January 2016, a 19-year-old man in Ladera Ranch was burned when 2 e-cig batteries blew up in his pocket, authorities said.

FDA Imposes Strict New Regulations on E-Cigarettes

May 9, 2016 – After years of debating the potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes, the FDA has issued sweeping new rules that extend federal authority to regulate the devices.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell announced the new regulations (PDF) Thursday. The rule broadens the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigs, hookahs, pipe tobacco, cigars, and other products.

“This action is a milestone in consumer protection — going forward, the FDA will be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products,” the agency said.

FDA held 3 public workshops to gather data about the effect of e-cigarettes on public health. Some studies have shown that using the devices is a good way to help a person quit smoking traditional cigarettes. In 2014, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) [15] stated that “electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine devices can provide an effective, affordable and readily available retail alternative to conventional cigarettes.”

The American Lung Association called the new regulations a “long-awaited step to protect public health. [16]Under the new regulations, minors under the age of 18 will not be able to purchase electronic cigarettes. Not all states currently forbid sales to minors. The products will also have to come with child-resistant packaging.

In 2014, the number of calls to poison control centers about e-cigarettes skyrocketed [17], according to the CDC. Most of the calls involved small children ingesting the liquid or accidentally getting it into their eyes or on their skin.

The new regulations will also give the federal government a say in what goes into e-cigarettes. Until now, the market has been a “complete unregulated Wild Wild West,” with no laws mandating what chemicals are included in the products.

Companies will be required to show what is in their products, excluding those on the market prior to 2007. FDA first attempted to regulate electronic cigarettes in 2009, when tests revealed “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.” Diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical found in car antifreeze, was found in one cartridge at a 1% level.

As a result, the FDA outlawed the sale of e-cigarettes, warning that the devices contained “toxic” and “harmful” chemicals. A year later, however, a court ruled that “the FDA had cited no evidence to show that electronic cigarettes harmed anyone” and that they could continue being sold.

Finally, the new regulations will require e-cig manufacturers to register with the FDA and include health warnings on their packaging and in their advertisements. It gives the FDA the authority to evaluate the health effects of electronic cigarette ingredients on users. The new rules will not take effect immediately, as companies will need to time to comply.

E-Cigs Affect Lungs Immediately, Study Finds

April 26, 2016 – Although electronic cigarettes are marketed as a safe alternative to traditional smoking, a new study has found that the devices have an immediate effect on pulmonary function.

For the study, which was published this month at the 2016 CHEST World Congress [18], researchers looked at 54 young cigarette and e-cigarettes smokers, 27 of whom had mild controlled asthma. After using electronic cigarettes, airway obstruction and inflammation measurements were worse in both groups but were more severe in asthmatics.

“These results show that as it happens with cigarette smoking, e-cigarette smoking has more deleterious short-term effects on asthmatics compared with healthy smokers,” said Dr. Andreas Lappas of the Hellenic Cancer Society. “Additionally, this research adds to the growing body of research pointing to the dangers of e-cigarettes. Especially for asthma, further research is needed in order to assess the risks of long-term e-cigarette use.”

Other studies have found that e-cigs are just as dangerous as traditional smokes. A Harvard study [19] found that of 51 electronic cigarettes tested, at least one toxin was found in 47 of them, and 75% contained diacetyl, a chemical linked to a severe respiratory illness known as bronchitis obliterans or “popcorn lung”. Even more alarming, the levels of diacetyl found in 39 of the e-cig brands contained amounts higher than the lab was capable of testing for.

A study from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System [20] found that electronic cigarettes damaged DNA in ways that could lead to cancer and cell death. “Based on the evidence to date,” says lead researcher Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriguez, “I believe they are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.”

The number of e-cigarette users has been growing rapidly in recent years. A Reuters poll [21] found that U.S. adults using them rose from 2.6% of the population in 2013 to 10% in 2015.

Millions of Kids Targeted by Electronic Cigarette Ads, CDC says

January 5, 2016 – E-cigarette use is soaring among U.S. teenagers due to numerous ad campaigns targeting this group, according to the CDC.

CDC’s current issue of Vital Signs [22] reports that a significant increase in advertising and the resulting boost in e-cigarette use by minors threatens decades of progress made in preventing children from smoking.

It is illegal for tobacco companies to advertise on TV, and cigarette ads in magazines must include bold warnings about the health effects of smoking. However, there are no such regulations for e-cigarettes or “vapes,” and the industry is spending millions on marketing their products using themes of independence, rebellion, and sex appeal to teenage consumers.

“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “I hope we can all agree that kids should not use e-cigarettes.”

In 2014, vapes surpassed traditional cigarettes to became the most commonly used tobacco product among young people. From 2011 to 2014, e-cigarette use among high school students went from 1.5% to 13.4%. Among middle school children, it rose from 0.6% to 3.9%.

Meanwhile, spending on e-cigarette ads soared from less than $7 million to $115 million during the same time period. According to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey [23], nearly 70% of middle and high school students had viewed some form of e-cigarette advertisement.

“What’s happening is widespread marketing of e-cigarettes that kids are seeing,” Frieden said. “Kids should not be using e-cigarettes and two-thirds of kids in this country are seeing e-cigarette ads.”

The main concern about electronic cigarettes has been that they deliver nicotine, which may affect brain development in youths. However, a recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that many e-cigarette flavors contain diacetyl, a chemical that causes an irreversible lung disease called bronchitis obliterans, commonly known as popcorn lung.

E-Cigarette use Linked to Cancer-Related Cell Damage: Study

December 30, 2015 – Marketed as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes or “vapes” could actually damage users’ cells in ways that could lead to cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Oral Oncology [24].

For the study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, created an extract from the vapor of 2 popular brands of electronic cigarettes and used it to treat human epithelial cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the cells exposed to vape extract were more likely to suffer DNA damage [25] and die.

“Based on the evidence to date, I believe they are no better than smoking regular cigarettes,” said Jessica Wang-Rodriguez, professor of pathology at UCSD and one of the researchers in the study. “Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public.”

The researchers tested 2 types of each e-cigarette: a nicotine and nicotine-free version. Nicotine is what makes smoking cigarettes addictive [26], and there is also some evidence that the substance can damage cells. The study found that the nicotine varieties caused more severe damage, but even the nicotine-free vapor was enough to alter cells.

“There must be other components in the e-cigarettes that are doing this damage,” Wang-Rodriguez said. “So we may be identifying other carcinogenic components that are previously undescribed.”

Scientists already know of some dangerous chemicals in vapes. One is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Another possible culprit is diacetyl, a flavoring agent that has been linked to an irreversible lung disease called bronchitis obliterans, commonly known as “popcorn lung”.

E-Cigs Linked to Popcorn Lung, Study Finds

December 8, 2015 – Electronic cigarettes, which are commonly advertised as being safer than traditional tobacco products, have been linked to an incurable disease known as ‘popcorn lung’, according to a study released by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Medically known as bronchitis obliterans, popcorn lung [27] is an irreversible disease in which the tiny air sacs in the lungs become scarred. The condition first made headlines in 2004, when the CDC [28] reported on a group of workers at a popcorn factory in Missouri who developed the disease.

Though diacetyl is most commonly associated with providing the butter flavor in microwave popcorn, the chemical is also found in fruit and alcohol flavorings used in e-cigarettes. In the study, 47 of the 51 leading electronic cigarette brands and liquids tested contained diacetyl.

“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes,” said David Christiani, Elkan Blount Professor of Environmental Genetics at Harvard and co-author of the study. “In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.”

Related article: Vaping Bronchitis Obliterans Lawsuits

Electronic Cigarette Timeline

2003 – Invention of Electronic Cigarettes
Hon Lik, a 52-year old chain smoker from Beijing, China, designs the 1st successful e-cigarette after his father dies of lung cancer. Over the next 5 years, electronic cigarettes manufactured by Ruyan are marketed in the U.S. and Europe as a way to safely stop smoking traditional cigarettes.

2008 – WHO Slams E-Cigarette Marketing
In Sept. 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) [29] stated that marketers should immediately remove any claims that electronic cigarettes are a safe way to quit smoking due to a lack of scientific evidence. Soon thereafter, a study funded by Ruyan [30] finds e-cigs to be 100-1000x less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, adding that the devices administer nicotine to the upper airways, not the lungs.

May 2009 – FDA releases the results (PDF) [31] of a test of 2 popular electronic cigarette brands, NJOY and Smoking Everywhere, which finds “very low” amounts of nicotine in cartridges labeled as nicotine-free. Two months later, an FDA press release [32] recommends against the use of e-cigs, saying they contain carcinogens and diethylene glycol, an ingredient contained in antifreeze.

2011 – Vapes Explode in Popularity
Studies [33] find high interest in e-cigarette use among the American public; Google searches [34] for e-cigs, vapes and other related terms are higher in the U.S. than in any other country.

A questionnaire [35] of 3,500 electronic cigarette users finds that most use the products because they believe them to be less toxic and cheaper than traditional cigarettes, and will help them quit or significantly cut down on tobacco smoking. Nearly 80% of ex-smokers in the study are concerned they will relapse if they stop using e-cigarettes.

2012 – E-Cigarette Use Among Children Doubles
CDC announces that e-cigarette use among U.S. middle school students doubles [36] from 2011 to 2012, warning that vaping among children may act as a gateway to traditional tobacco use.

2013 – Conflicting Studies Over Whether E-Cigs Help Users Quit Smoking
Several studies published indicating that electronic cigarettes are not as effective a tool for smoking cessation as previously believed. A cross-sectional study [37] of more than 1,800 tobacco smokers finds a link between e-cig use and “unsuccessful quitter” status, but none with “quitter” status.

Another study [38] finds e-cigarette users far less likely to be tobacco-free 7 months after they first try vaping compared to test subjects who never use the products.

2014 – Poison Control Center Calls Skyrocket
CDC releases data indicating that the number of calls about nicotine e-juice to poison centers rose from a 1 call per month in 2010 to 215 calls per month in 2014. Over half of the calls involved children under the age of 5 ingesting, inhaling or getting the juice in their eyes or on the skin.

2015 – Is Vaping Safe?
NEJM study [39] finds that when heated by high voltage batteries, e-cigarettes release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

Another study (cited above) finds diacetyl at higher than laboratory normal levels in 39 of 51 e-juices tested.

September 12, 2018 – FDA Commissioner Warns Vape Manufacturers No to Market to Teens
FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issues a statement calling teen vaping an “epidemic,” and urges the e-cigarette industry to address the problem or risk having their products removed from the market.

March 13, 2019 – FDA Restricts Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products
FDA issues new guidelines restricting the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vapes, at convenience stores, gas stations and pharmacies. The agency also asks that all e-cig manufacturers submit applications showing their products meet current regulations by Aug. 8, 2022.

April 3, 2019 – FDA Announces Investigation into Risk of Seizures with E-Cigarettes
FDA issues a press release stating that it is aware of reports of seizures associated with vape use, and launches an investigation to study the potential risk.

June 29, 2019 – San Francisco Bans Sale of Vapes, E-Cigs
San Francisco becomes the first city in the U.S. to ban all sales of e-cigarettes and vapes.

August 7, 2019 – FDA Updates E-Cigarette Seizure Info
FDA announces that it has received at least 129 reports of seizure and other neurological symptoms — fainting, tremors, etc. — in people who had recently used an e-cigarette or vape.

August 17, 2019 – Feds Launches Probe into Reports of Lung Disease with Vaping
The CDC and FDA launch a joint investigation into at least 215 cases of severe lung disease in people who smokes vapes and/or e-cigarettes.

See the other defective products lawsuits which we’ve covered.

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