Below are some of our videos explaining the potential dangers of using e-cigarettes. To learn more about the nicotine addiction caused by this product, click JUUL Addiction. To learn more about the burn injuries linked to this product, click E-Cigarette Explosions.
E Cigarettes To Be Banned Following Vaping Related Deaths
Mike Papantonio: Over the past few years, e-cigarettes have flooded our markets, being advertised as the safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. But cases of lung disease and even deaths have begun to surface, now prompting President Trump to demand the FDA to finally step in and ban flavored vapes. Legal journalist Mollye Barrows is with me to talk about it. This is a big story. As a matter of fact, there's major litigation that's getting ready to start. We're actually launching that litigation in Las Vegas at the bi-annual meeting that takes place with lawyers who specialize in these kinds of cases. Give me your take on it. It's not an overreaction at all that Trump should go ahead and say these flavored cigarette vapes need to come off the market.
Mollye Barrows: Right. I agree. I mean, that's a great reaction. What really needs to be addressed is the marketing rules that need to be tightened up in regards to how these companies like Juul are allowed to deliberately market to children, because that's the basis of the litigation that the Levin Papantonio Firm is pursuing, along with some other law firms. They basically say they took the model from big tobacco and said, "We've got a product here that we can market as relatively safer than perhaps traditional combustible cigarettes, but we're going to flavor it and we're going to make it easily consumed and appealing to young people," and that's why you see such a huge market.
The Juul company owns the market, dominates the market, when it comes to kids and vaping. So marketing rules need to be tightened up. I think that would be a better response from Trump, okay.
Mike Papantonio: But I don't think he's going to do it.
Mollye Barrows: It's not as sexy.
Mike Papantonio: I don't think he's going to do it. When you come out with flavors like Marty Mango, Goofy Grape, Ali Ali Orange, that's ... and even the way they market it. Where do they put it in the store? Kids can see it. Look, we've been through this before. We went through this on the tobacco cases. We actually started the tobacco litigation right here in this law firm. And so when we saw what they did there, here's what the tobacco industry was trying to do back then. They did studies and they said, "If we can addict a child by the time they're 14 to our brand of cigarettes-
Mollye Barrows: "-we can own them forever."
Mike Papantonio: "-we can own the brand forever." Okay, these are the same people.
Mollye Barrows: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: But all they've done ... Now we're talking about a different product, but it's the same ghouls that are making these decisions, and here's what they know. Unfortunately, in the vaping industry, it's almost become a cult. They'll have vaping contests that you go online and who can make the biggest vape?
Mollye Barrows: A culture of vaping, so that everything that you do, whether you're socializing or working, you can have it around with you.
Mike Papantonio: But it's worse than that.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah, it's interesting.
Mike Papantonio: It is a cult. When we do stories on vaping, the cult comes out, because the industry has marketed so well. Now, what are the problems that we're seeing? What are we seeing with it?
Mollye Barrows: Well, we're seeing unexplained deaths. Of course, that's been the real concern now. You have six deaths so far. You have a number of cases of different types of lung disease that they believe are associated with vaping, and because it's relatively new in the market with the past 10 years, there's not a lot of research. They don't know exactly what is causing it, if it's certain chemicals, because even though it's been marketed as a safer alternative than combustible cigarettes, you're still talking about inhaling highly addictive substances like nicotine, as well as these other chemicals that are used in the process of delivering that chemical to you. And so those are the problems. Something called popcorn lung. You name it.
Mike Papantonio: Here's the point. The argument is, "Well, you know what? It won't kill you like cigarettes." It's crazy. Yes, it will.
Mollye Barrows: It's a slower, more fun death.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The cigarettes, regular cigarettes, may take 30 years, but now we're actually seeing changes, physical, anatomical changes within the respiratory system that is taking place with people who vape. And so the cult wants to ignore it and say, "This isn't a problem." Okay, kids are having seizures. They're developing restrictive airway disease. This is diagnosed. This doesn't take 30 years to develop, and the worst thing about it, the thing that really is the angst here, is you actually had the CEO of Juul come out and basically admit, "Yeah, this is a problem. Kids shouldn't vape." At the time he says that, everything he does contrary to that to market his product is completely different.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah, well, so that's why when the Trump Administration says, "We're going to do everything that we can to protect people, especially kids, and we're going to start by removing flavored vapes off the market," to me, that's just such a ... Yes, it's knee-jerk. Yes, it's some sort of a reaction that at least says, "Hey, what's happening to our kids is wrong," but again, why can't we address the root of the problem? Why can't we get in there and say, "Hey, it's our own lawmakers that are affecting and allowing these marketing rules to allow these companies to openly lie like that."
Mike Papantonio: Well, most of the time, you always see the FDA at the heart of the problem, and they are here. They're slowly reacting, only because again, time after time, the FDA is shamed. People have to die. People have to get sick. The media has to write about it. The regulator has to be called out and said, "Why don't you do your job?" Ultimately, the FDA gets around to it. In this situation, again, they waited too long. No regulations. Any mom-and-pop organization can start a vape store and sell whatever they want to sell. So this story is just begun. After Vegas, there's going to be some major litigation that takes place here.
Mollye Barrows: Absolutely. Right, thanks, Pap.
Mike Papantonio: Thanks for joining me.
E-Cigarette Batteries Are Exploding and Disfiguring Consumers
Papantonio: E-cigarettes are devices designed to deliver nicotine to the user without ever having to light up a conventional cigarette. These devices were first patented in 2003, and they’ve been available for sale in the US since 2007. Manufacturers of these products advertise them as safe, safer than traditional forms of smoking, as a way to actually quit smoking is their pitch. Right now, the jury is still out on the long-term health effects from e-cigarettes.
Recent studies though have shown a link between the use of e-cigarettes in a very serious irreversible lung disease known as popcorn lung. The lung disease is the result of e-cigarettes being flavored with a chemical that can cause scarring of the air sacs in the lungs that result in thickening and narrowing of the airways. Symptoms of popcorn lung include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath similar to the symptoms of COPD.
But, what we’re focusing on today are the lawsuits being filed against the manufacturers of e-cigarettes because the lithium-ion batteries in the devices have been known to explode during normal use and during the time that you’re charging the batteries. 80% of the fires with e-cigarettes occur while the device is being charged in the USB port. The problem stems from the fact that different USB ports put out different levels of voltage and current which can cause the battery in e-cigarettes to overheat. This overheating triggers a reaction that’s been called the thermal runaway. Once this reaction begins, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. This thermal runaway creates a super heated explosion that caused second to third degree burns and, in some cases, the e-cigarette explosions have caused bone fractures, and muscle damage, and even blindness. You need to understand that these aren’t just small sparks we’re talking about. They’re full throttle explosions.
According to report by FEMA in 2014, these devices essentially became missiles with an explosive impact. The FEMA document states e-cigarettes are more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like flaming rockets when a battery fails. That’s their words. And, just like real rockets and missiles, the explosions created by these e-cigarettes, the batteries, they can be devastating. In 2012, a man in Florida had e-cigarette explode in his mouth shattering most of his teeth and blowing off a portion of his tongue. In December 2016, an e-cigarette device exploded in a man’s pocket while he was riding on a bus in California. The explosion caused third degree burns and that seems to be a repetitive problem that we’re seeing here. In January of this year, an Idaho man had an e-cigarette blow up knocking out seven of his teeth leaving second degree burns on his face. It also shattered his bathroom sink when the exploding device flew onto this counter.
The FDA has documented more than 130 incidents of battery explosions since these devices were brought onto the market. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 2016 that the FDA even acquired the authority to regulate these devices. The formal science based public hearings aren’t even set to begin until April 2017. This problem will only become worse as the use of these devices continue to grow. More than three million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015 making these devices the most utilized tobacco product among kids. Nearly 4% of adults in the US regularly use e-cigarettes. The growing use can be attributed to both the number of people using the devices to quit smoking traditional tobacco and because of the aggressive marketing campaigns that big tobacco is using to sell e-cigarettes.
Joining me now to discuss the problem with e-cigarettes is Atty. Andy Mcgraw. Andy, tell us why the lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes are so prone to explosions and why are they more dangerous than other devices that use these kinds of batteries.
McGraw: Well, sure. First, thanks for having me on the show, Mike. Now, lots of devices have these lithium-ion batteries. They’re known for packing a lot of power into a very small space: laptops, cellphones, lots of devices use these. But, lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes are specifically dangerous because of the shape that they’re in. The cylinder can actually act as a rocket when, as you’re talking about, the thermal runaway starts, the end of the cylindrical battery can rupture, and the material inside of this battery basically can ignite acting, like you said, just like a rocket. When that happens, these devices act like bullets and rockets, and they will cause catastrophic damage when used either in somebody’s face or even being stored in the pocket or backpack. The shape of these ion batteries-
Papantonio: Andy, let me ask you this. Considering the relatively small pool of victims, 134, the FDA has recognized, now that doesn’t mean that’s all, but they’ve recognized that versus the nine million regular adult users of these devices, is it possible that these incidents can be attributed to user error? Isn’t that what we’re going to be hearing from this company, the companies that make this product that, by the way, happen to be the same people that sold us tobacco and killed millions of people with tobacco and now they’re moving to this product? Talk to us about this defense that we’re going to hear. Well, gee whiz, it wasn’t our product. It happened because the dummy didn’t use the product right. Isn’t that what we’re going to hear and what’s your response to that?
McGraw: Well, first of all, I think that there’s a concern that these are being severely under reported. The number could be much, much higher than that. If you talk to hospital or professionals, they will tell you that. But, with regards to user error, that is a response to a lot of manufacturers, a lot of the retailers that they say that they’re not being stored properly. They’re not being charged properly. And, the people who are using these batteries, it’s their fault, but that can be the cause of some of them, but the number of explosions that are existing can also be attributed to the manufacturing of the product. A lot of these batteries are made overseas. They’re made in China where the production may not be the same quality as other places as well as the materials of the battery. The production and the materials also cause a very high rate of failure with these, so it cannot just be by reflected by user error, or improper charging, or improper storage of these batteries.
Papantonio: Okay. There’s currently litigation against the makers of these devices because of these explosions. Can you tell us what the status of the lawsuits are? Before you do though, did I get it right about the fact that people have had their tongues blown off, the teeth blown out of their mouth? They’ve been partially blinded. Are those the facts that you’re seeing as you review these cases?
McGraw: Yes, absolutely. Although these don’t fail incredibly often, when they do, the effect are catastrophic. They go off in people’s cars. They set cars on fire. They go off in people’s houses. They set houses on fire. They go off in pockets causing severe burns to legs. When they do go off in use, they can destroy teeth. They can destroy parts of people’s tongue. They can break jaws. One individual had his neck broken due to the force of the impact. These are not small explosions. These are serious, serious malfunctions when these devices do explode. You’re exactly right in that. Those are some major, major-
Papantonio: What is the status right now of these lawsuits? You have probably a handful of people throughout the country that typically go after these corporations, that have the ability to go after these corporations. I mean, a lot of people collect cases but you got to have lawyers that actually can do something once they have them. What is the status of all of that nationally as far as lawsuits?
McGraw: There are dozens of lawsuits pending right now. As I stated earlier, part of the problem is the batteries themselves that are failing, and malfunctioning, and exploding, a lot of them are made in China and it’s very difficult to go against them, but people are suing the manufacturers of the cigarettes. They’re suing the retailers for not advising them of the dangers of using these lithium-ion batteries and these devices. There are dozens of lawsuits across the country, again, based on the catastrophic injuries that people are suffering, and those are the people that they’re suing. They’re suing the manufacturers.
Earlier you got it exactly right. These big tobacco players, they’re still involved. They’re the ones that are involved now in this vaping and this e-cigarette manufacturing. R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Altria, all of these companies that made those cigarettes, the traditional cigarettes, they’re still in the game, and they’re still doing the same kinds of things. They’re advertising-
Papantonio: Okay. Andy, think of the irony of that. Here you have the companies that killed millions of people and they say, “Oh, we’ve got to wait. We know we addicted you to the product. We had plans.” I know you’ve seen the documents, too, where they lay out step by step how they’re going to go about addicting children. They focused on children, 15 to 16 year olds. How do we addict the child? We’ve handled those cases. Now, we have them saying, “Gee whiz, we got you addicted. Now, we want to make a product that’s going to get you unaddicted.” Unfortunately the product that they’re making to get you unaddicted has the ability to blow your face off. That is kind of what the scenario is here, isn’t it? What’s your take?
McGraw: Absolutely. The statistic I saw, I think, according to the CDC was between 2011 and 2015. The use of these devices by high school students increased 900%. The advertising that these companies are putting forward into these between 2011, the advertising expenditure was about 6.4 million. In 2015, the advertising, excuse me, they exploded to $115 million. That time the use in high school students and in middle school students skyrocketed. These tobacco companies, they’re still advertising these products using the sex appeal, using the rebellion aspect, using the individuality aspect of it. All of the same kind of tactics and techniques that they use to sell original cigarettes they’re using again.
Papantonio: Andy, I can tell you firsthand since I handled the tobacco litigation, we saw the CEOs, 12 of them stand up, raised their right hand and lie to congress. They’re going to do the same here. It’s going to be a tough lawsuit. I hope you’ll hang in there and do something about it, okay?
E-Cigarette Lithium Ion Batteries Are Mangling Users
Farron: Andy, these e-cigarette devices, these vaping devices, obviously, we don’t have any long-term studies about any of the health effects from these things, but there is a danger that we do know about with these things, it’s a danger that’s been caught on video, FEMA has had to come out and issue a study on these things. What is this danger with these e-cigarette devices that people need to understand right now?
Andy: Well, Farron, the nature of the danger comes down to the batteries, and the way the batteries are shaped and the way the batteries are designed, and frankly the way the batteries are manufactured, they pose a danger of exploding, and based on the shape of the battery and the shape of these devices, when these batteries do explode, it can turn these vaping or these e-cigarette devices into basically miniature rockets, and when that happens, they can explode, they can cause chemical burns, they can cause severe injuries to whoever’s using them at the time.
Farron: And I think it’s important, when we say these things explode, a lot of people think, ‘Okay, well, just like a little, just kind of crumples up or maybe just pop.’ I mean, we are talking literal, full-blown explosions that are happening sometimes right in people’s face as they have this device in their mouth. I think some of the examples we’ve seen, we’ve seen people with second and third-degree burns all over their face. We have seen people get parts of their tongue blown off, teeth blown right out of their mouth. I mean, this is a very, very serious issue. It’s not just a small explosion, like you said. These things do become rockets. There’s photographs that I’ve seen of a man who had one charging on his bathroom sink, a porcelain sink, it exploded and completely demolished that porcelain sink. It blew pieces of that all over the bedroom, so these things really do become high-powered explosives, for lack of a better term.
Andy: Yeah, and I’m glad you brought up the charging situation, because that is frequently cited as the reason for the fault in the battery, for the explosion of the battery. Frequently, these batteries are made overseas, in China, made with inferior materials, and with inferior production means, and a lot of times these aftermarket batteries are being charged in a way that affect the battery and make them explode. And while the injuries suffered by these explosions are significant, they also are linked to fires in the houses and cars, when people plug them into their computers or plug them in using the wrong kind of chargers, a lot of times these batteries will explode and start huge fires in the house, huge fires in the car, and, again, cause those kinds of injuries that you were describing, destroying teeth, breaking necks, causing chemical burns and massive burns on legs, where people frequently carried them in their pockets.
Farron: And so when we’re talking about these, the danger is with the batteries, not necessarily the device itself, but the shape of the device is what allows it essentially to become a rocket, but it’s the batteries themselves that are exploding these lithium-ion batteries, and to the charging issue, these things first came out in 2007. That’s when they were first introduced to consumers. They were patented in 2003, but in 2007, a USB charger is a lot different than a USB charger today. We’ve had USB 2.0, USB 3.0, all kinds of things since then, so they put out different wattages of power, perhaps the battery is old and cannot handle that much power, if it’s one that was produced a couple years ago, but the problem is that even if you are using this thing as directed, they don’t always specify what type of USB port, USB charger, you need to be using.
So even if you do follow the directions to the T, they may be outdated, and you may not know that, because they don’t necessarily specify it. Is that something that we’ve seen here?
Andy: Yeah, that’s exactly right, and it’s important to note that lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous. They’re in cell phones, they’re in computers, and you have seen cases in which computer batteries have caught fire from design flaws or from problems, and there’s a big problem with the Samsung phone, with the batteries in that catching fire, but the difference between those batteries and the ones in these e-cigarettes and these vapes is the shape of the battery, the cylindrical shape, specifically, of the battery in these e-cigarettes and vapes. That causes more of that kind of explosive rocket effect, but yeah, you’re absolutely right. The USB chargers, they don’t come with very good warnings on how to use them, and specifically to not use them in other types of USB devices.
Farron: So is there anything, really, that somebody who uses one of these devices, do they need to go back, check their owner’s manual, do they need to contact the company to make sure that they’re doing this correctly, or what can people do right now, if anyone listening to this is actually using one of these devices, how can they make sure that they avoid one of these problems? Obviously, without knowing whether or not their battery is safe, because I know this isn’t happening to huge numbers of people, but it’s happening to quite a few people, and the damage is turning out to be catastrophic for somebody. So what should somebody do right now, listening to this, to make sure that they don’t have a user error that causes these battery defects?
Andy: Like you said, the big thing is to read the manual. If the e-cig or the vape comes with a particular charger, use that charger. Don’t try to plug it in through an alternate means. Don’t try to just plug it into your USB on your computer. That’s the big thing. Also, making sure that you’re using quality, higher-quality products, higher-quality batteries, and not batteries that may be made by an overseas company that may be cutting corners, maybe putting out inferior products that might be subject to these kinds of problems.
Farron: So always look for maybe something from a manufacturer that you trust, make sure you check out all the parts, because a lot of times, people will take these devices, they’ll modify them, they’ll put in different batteries that last longer, so I think the big thing, obviously, check that label, make sure you know where this battery came from, make sure it’s from somebody that you trust. Do a little research. Look up the company online. Look up your particular device manufacturer, see if they have been linked to any of these problems, because back to the injuries, you mentioned somebody had their neck broken when one of these explosions occurred?
Andy: Yeah, and before we get to that, it is important, also, to note that because these devices do tend to wear down the battery, a lot of times people carry spare batteries with them, and a lot … You’ve seen some of the videos where these batteries will explode in somebody’s pocket or a purse or a backpack, so it’s also important when you are carrying these batteries as a backup to make sure they’re carried in a special case or some kind of plastic case, something that won’t conduct the electricity, because that is one of the things that the companies are pointing to in some of these device failures. But yeah, what the explosive … I mean, it just goes to show the power and the devastating effect of what can happen when these things do explode.
Like we were saying, it can destroy parts of your tongue, it can break your teeth. The force of it can break some of the parts of your neck bones, so yeah, they don’t fail very often, but when they do, the results can be catastrophic.
Farron: Absolutely. Andy, appreciate your work on this issue. Keep it up. This is a very important issue, and I hope anyone out there listening or watching this online, I hope you understand the dangers of this, and if you are using one of these devices, if it feels like it’s heating up, you need to dispose of it, put it in an area where there are no people, but you got to do that immediately, because once these chemical reactions begin in the battery, according to the reports, there is no stopping it. Andy, thank you for talking with us today.
Andy: Farron, thanks for having me on.
E-Cigarette Lawsuits - Links to Explosions, Burns and Popcorn Lung Disease
E-cigarettes (also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems) are devices designed to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like pens, USB flash drives and other everyday items.
The products were first patented in 2003, and have been available for sale in the U.S. since 2007. Manufacturers of these products advertise them as safer than traditional forms of smoking, and a way to actually quit smoking.
The jury is still out on the long-term health effects from e-cigarettes. Recent studies have shown a link between the use of e-cigarettes and bronchiolitis obliterans, a very serious and irreversible lung disease, known as “popcorn lung.”
Additionally, lawsuits are being filed against the manufacturers of e-cigarettes because the lithium-ion batteries in the devices have been known to explode during normal operation and during the charging of the batteries, causing severe burns to users and property damage.
Most of the fires with e-cigarettes occur while the device is being charged in a USB port. The problem appears to be that different USB ports put out different levels of voltage and current, which can cause the battery in the e-cigarette to overheat.
In regard to “popcorn lung”, the lung disease is caused because many e-cigarettes are flavored with diacetyl. When this chemical is inhaled, it can cause scarring of the air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways.
Symptoms of popcorn lung include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
More than 3 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015, making these devices the most utilized tobacco products among kids. There literally are hundreds of brands, and thousands of flavors, of e-cigarettes.
Unfortunately, it was not until 2016 that the FDA even acquired the authority to regulate these devices. And formal science-based public hearings are not set to even begin until April 2017.