E-cigarettes, electronic devices that deliver nicotine by vaporizing a liquid rather than burning dried tobacco, are being sold to the American public as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. Given the tobacco industry’s decades long track record of lying to the world about the dangers of smoking, it’s natural to be skeptical about the rosy health claims of electronic cigarettes. Now, a new study has shown that flavored e-cigarettes (also known as e-cigs) contain chemicals that may cause a severe and irreversible lung disease.
For decades, tobacco companies paid scientists to sow doubt about the growing body of evidence linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer, a fact that is now undisputed. As these deceptions have come to light, acceptance of cigarette smoking in the US has declined. In 1965, 42% of US adults were smokers. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that number had gone down to 15%.
As cigarette smoking has become less socially acceptable, with states instituting bans on smoking in most public spaces, offices and restaurants, e-cigarette use has been on the rise. Young people have the highest rate of “vaping” (vaping is the term for e-cig use, since users inhale vapor, not smoke). Just over 5% of those in the 18 to 24 year category vape regularly. The industry has promoted vaping among young people, producing flavored e-cigarettes blatantly aimed at a youth market. One leading brand features flavors that include Cherry Crush, Peach Schnapps, and Vivid Vanilla.
That flavoring puts more than sweetness into the vapor. It adds toxic chemicals into the mix as well.
Butter Flavoring and Popcorn Lung
In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was called in to investigate an outbreak of obliterative bronchiolitis among people who had worked at a plant that manufactured microwave popcorn. The disease is caused by scarring or swelling of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The symptoms of this disease are similar to asthma or chronic bronchitis, so it can be difficult to diagnose. It is uncommon and incurable. Because the sufferers had all worked at a popcorn plant, the disease became known as “popcorn lung.”
Studies determined that popcorn lung was caused by the butter-flavored topping. Chemicals used in the flavoring became airborne during the manufacturing process. One chemical in particular, diacetyl, is suspected of being responsible for this disease.
Flavored E-Cigarettes Put Workers and Vapers in Danger
Diacetyl is a common ingredient in a number of other artificial flavorings, including fruit flavors. A new study looked for diacetyl, as well as two other chemicals that may be implicated in obliterative bronchiolitis, in flavored e-cigarettes. The study tested 51 types of e-cigs. Researchers detected diacetyl in more than 75% of the flavors and at least one of the three chemicals in over 90% of the samples tested.
Workers, who are exposed to constant large doses of these chemicals, may have the highest risk of developing debilitating lung disease after prolonged exposure. However, vapers may also be susceptible, as they inhale these toxics along with their Cherry Crush or Vivid Vanilla. Because flavored e-cigarettes are widely used among young people whose lungs may still be developing, the effects could be even more severe.
Focusing on Lung Disease for Over 40 Years
Kazan Law is no stranger to dealing with big corporations that put workers and consumers at risk. We have been at the forefront of asbestos litigation since the first plaintiffs filed lawsuits in the early 1970s. We continue to hold corporations accountable every day, for mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers.
Our practice is about more than winning settlements and verdicts for our clients, though that is an important part of what we do. It is also about holding corporations accountable for their negligent actions. It’s about standing up to big businesses that put profits ahead of the health of their workers and customers and the general public.
Manufacturers who used asbestos knew about its potentially fatal health effects for decades but continued to expose unsuspecting workers to this toxic mineral without proper – or any – protective gear. Even when the information about the health risks of asbestos became public, government was slow to step in and regulate. The widespread and negligent use of asbestos only stopped after the weight of lawsuits became too heavy for corporations to bear.
The toxic effects of diacetyl and other flavoring chemicals are not unknown. E-cigarette manufacturers add these chemicals to their products in search of an easy profit, disregarding the risk to human health. The FDA currently has no authority to regulate e-cigarettes, the way it does tobacco, so flavored e-cigarettes are not subject to any government oversight. While the FDA pursues a legal process to obtain regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, some states and cities have passed their own rules limiting the use of these nicotine-delivery devices.
Flavored e-cigarettes have only been on the market for a few years. Lung disease can take time to develop. Symptoms may be latent for years until they become too severe to ignore. At Kazan Law, we think public health matters. We think there’s no time to lose.
Sometimes, lawyers can do what governments and business cannot or will not do – protect the health of citizens and workers. Kazan Law is proud to be a part of this movement. If you are an e-cigarette smoker and are experiencing severe lung issues, talk to your doctor at once. If you are told your problems seem related to diacetyl, we’d like to hear from you.