vape pens with a marijuana leaf in the background

A South Carolina woman from the Upstate has become the state’s first casualty in a nationwide epidemic of e-cigarette vaping deaths.

The victim was a woman over 65 with underlying health conditions, Dr. Anna-Kathryn Burch of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control told The Greenville News. A DHEC news release says the woman had been “recently diagnosed with a vaping-related injury” known as e-cigarette, or vaping, associated lung injury (EVALI).

As of early December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 2,291 cases of EVALI had been diagnosed nationwide, including 48 vaping-related deaths. Other deaths were still under investigation.

The CDC has previously said that most patients suspected of suffering from EVALI report a history of using vaping products containing THC. The CDC has identified inhalation of Vitamin E acetate, an additive used in the production of vaping products, as a possible common factor in reported EVALI cases.

THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of vaping products because it resembles THC oil. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco.

What Does Vaping Do To Your Lungs?

Patients associated with EVALI report such symptoms as:

  • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • Fever, chills or weight loss.

A small study published in 2016 found that use of nicotine-containing vaping products triggers lung inflammation and lung tissue damage normally associated with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema.

Research published in January 2018 found that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor displayed DNA damage in the lungs, bladder and heart, which could increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung problems.

These studies focused on nicotine in e-cigarettes. The health risks of inhaling a vaporized version of Vitamin E acetate are a concern that was never considered prior to the current EVALI outbreak.

Vitamin E acetate is sticky, like honey, and clings to lung tissue. Researchers do not know exactly how it harms the lungs, but the CDC is considering conducting additional studies to try to understand that.

E-Cigarette Dangers and ‘Popcorn Lung’

The CDC has also said that, while there is a focus on Vitamin E as the culprit in quick-acting vaping-related lung disease, other chemicals in e-cigarettes and their side effects may be just as dangerous.

One such chemical is diacetyl, a flavor enhancer added to “e-juice” liquid by some e-cigarette companies. Diacetyl is better known as the buttery-flavored chemical in foods like popcorn, caramel and dairy products. More than a decade ago, diacetyl in microwave popcorn was linked to deaths and hundreds of cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease also known as “popcorn lung.”

Bronchiolitis obliterans causes scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways, according to the American Lung Association. “It’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

SC Lawmakers Work to Curb Youth Vaping

Charleston City Paper explains that South Carolina legislators are expected to consider several approaches to regulating e-cigarettes and vaping when they convene in 2020.

In 2019, legislators toughened the 2006 Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act. They defined vaping as a nicotine alternative, prohibited minors from entering retail establishments that sell primarily nicotine products, required schools to prohibit vaping on campus and at school events, and strengthened language about internet sales.

S.C. Rep. Beth Bernstein wants to regulate who sells vaping products and how the products are vetted as genuine. Two other bills related to vaping are being pushed by lobbyists funded by e-cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc., says Charleston City Paper. One would raise the nicotine product purchase age to 21. The other would prevent local governments from banning tobacco use. The latter bill, known as the “pre-emption bill,” passed the House in the last session.

Matthew Carpenter, a tobacco use cessation expert at the Medical University of South Carolina, agrees with raising the purchase age to 21 and also suggests:

  • Licensing the sale of e-cigarette and vaping products
  • Restricting flavors that could be enticing to young people
  • Taxing alternative nicotine products like South Carolina already taxes tobacco.

Juul announced in October it would halt sales of its non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored vaping liquids and stop marketing to youths. The previous month, the Food and Drug Administration had sent a warning letter to Juul Labs, stating that the manufacturer had illegally marketed its products as less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and its representatives had made misleading statements about the products.

In November, Juul said it would halt U.S. sales of its best-selling, mint-flavored electronic cigarettes.

A leading manufacturer of e-cigarette products, Juul Labs has been named in lawsuits filed by adults and underage Juul users who claim they became addicted to nicotine through the company’s products.

Contact Our South Carolina Defective Products Lawyers

If you or your child has become ill or been otherwise harmed, including becoming addicted to nicotine, from using e-cigarettes and other vaping products, the South Carolina product liability attorneys at Joye Law Firm would like to speak to you.

E-cigarettes and vaping have been illegally marketed by Juul as a safer, non-addictive alternative to smoking standard tobacco cigarettes. Under product liability law, manufacturers may be compelled to compensate consumers who used their product and were harmed if the manufacturer knew or should have known is was harmful and failed to adequately warn consumers.

Under South Carolina product liability law, a defective products lawsuit can be brought against a manufacturer, wholesaler and the retailer that sold the faulty item.

Joye Law Firm can help you evaluate the evidence you have to support a potential product liability lawsuit, identify all possible liable parties, and fight to ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.

Call Joye Law Firm or fill out our online case evaluation form to set up a free discussion of your case. We have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Columbia, but our defective products attorneys are ready to take care of your case anywhere in South Carolina.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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