According to the Centers for Disease Control, 530 people have now suffered a vaping-related illness and seven have died. As these numbers rise, the Food and Drug Administration has launched a criminal investigation into the increase in diseases. This announcement follows on from efforts by the Trump administration to curb e-cigarettes and vaping products for children. More than half of the victims were under 25 years of age.
“Although the cases appear similar, it is not clear whether these cases have a common cause or whether they are different diseases with similar manifestations, so our ongoing investigation is critical,” announced the FDA. “CDC and the FDA are advising and working closely with state health departments to gather information about products or substances used.” What could this mean for civil liability for vaping disease and death?
Illness in the supply chain
The FDA has assured people that it is not looking to prosecute individual users but rather for information about what type of vape products they have used. “The focus is on the supply chain,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We are very concerned about products that contain THC.”
While all reported victims had used e-cigarettes or vapors in the past, the specific product they inhaled varied. Most people admitted using e-cigarette products containing THC, many reported using both nicotine and THC, and some reported using only nicotine products. Many also said that the THC products they used were bought illegally or on the black market.
“There may be a problem with the source material or changes that can occur in different locations,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s deputy chief executive officer, told reporters, adding that the CDC is “working around the clock” to find out what makes people sick, “it may take some time” before that is possible.
Causes and Legal Claims
The wide range of diseases and products used makes it even more difficult to identify a single culprit, and FDA Forensic Laboratory officials have confirmed that they have not identified a single product or substance for e-cigarettes as the cause of disease and death. This also makes it more difficult to cause personal injury or death due to product liability, especially if the product was purchased illegally.
If you have had an e-cigarette or vaping product, see a doctor right away and share information with health authorities to determine the exact cause. Then you might want to speak to an experienced product liability attorney about your possible legal claims.