A Florida family has sued e-cigarette company Juul, claiming that their son’s addiction to vaping caused his death. It is believed to be the first wrongful death suit related to vaping.
According to Bloomberg Law, the suit alleges that Daniel David Wakefield died in his sleep at the age of 18 of ‘breathing complications’ after he spent the day helping his mother move boxes.
The suit claims that Juul “took advantage of minimal regulations and loopholes for e-cigarettes at a time when youth smoking was at its lowest level in decades.” According to the suit, Juul “developed and marketed a highly addictive product that could be packaged and sold to young people without having to comply with the restrictions for regular cigarette companies.”
The suit further claims that Juul designed heir products to addict teens to nicotine, and for it to be undetectable by adults.
According to the lawsuit, Wakefield became exposed to Juul’s advertising in 2015, and began using their products. The suit claims that after he began vaping, Wakefield’s “interest and performance in school significantly declined and his emotional well-being was substantially altered. Within a few weeks of use, Wakefield became intensely addicted to JUUL. He was no longer interested in academics and decided to abandon school for virtual teaching – and ultimately took his GED – rather than graduating. In addition, he suffered severe mood swings if he did not have access to JUUL.”
The suit claims that Wakefield was hospitalized from breathing complications in 2016, but even after his hospitalization, he continued to vape and insist that vaping was safe.
The suit claims that in August 2018, Wakefield went to bed but did not display any signs of breathing complications or wheezing. He was found deceased at approximately 4:00am by his father. According to the suit, his death was attributed to “breathing complications.”
The CDC‘s website says that as of October 15, 2019, there have been a reported 1,479 lung injury cases associated with e-cigarette use, including 33 deaths in 24 states. The CDC states, however, that “most” of the cases involving injury and death are the result of using “street” cartridges containing THC, the psychoactive chemical in recreational marijuana.
According to the CDC, “The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak” of lung injuries from e-cigarettes.
However, while the CDC specifically recommends that users not use vaping cartridges containing THC, they further state that “since the specific causes or causes of lung injury are not yet known, the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.”
The Trump administration announced in September that it planned to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges nationwide. In anticipation of this policy, and facing heavy criticism, Juul announced last week that it would voluntarily stop selling its fruit flavored pods in the United States; however, some flavors (including mint) remain on the market.