A growing outbreak of mysterious lung ailments related to vaping and e-cigarettes has now sickened more than 1,000 individuals and claimed at least 18 lives and counting nationwide.
Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration warned last week that the crisis has not yet peaked, as Law360 reported.
With cases of the unexplained respiratory illness reported now in all 50 states, the Federal Trade Commission last week demanded a trove of sales and advertising data from six major manufacturers of vaping and e-cigarette products.
One manufacturer in particular, California-based JUUL Laboratories, faces growing scrutiny over its marketing tactics and fruit and mint flavors allegedly designed to get teens hooked on its products.
A 2018 analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association found sales of JUUL’s e-cigarette devices surged 641% in a single year, climbing to 16.2 million devices sold in 2017 from 2.2 million devices the previous year. JUUL accounted for 73% of sales to U.S. teens in 2018, according to one industry watchdog.
In a bid to understand how vaping companies are targeting consumers, the FTC ordered JUUL and other manufacturers to hand over detailed sales data on e-cigarette giveaways, information about chemical composition and flavorings, annual spending on advertising, promotion and product placement, and influencer marketing and social media outreach.
In recent months, at least six states have moved to ban flavored vaping products:
- New York
- Rhode Island
New York’s ban is currently tied up in court amid a lawsuit by the Vapor Technology Association, an industry group. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration considers imposing a nationwide ban on flavored vaping products.
As health officials wrestle to understand what’s behind the deadly outbreak, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, admitted there’s a lot they don’t understand about the ingredients in e-cig and vaping products that millions of Americans are using.
"It is pretty much impossible for you to know what is in the e-cigarette or vaping product that you're getting, particularly THC-containing products bought off the street or bought from social sources," Schuchat said in a press conference. "In light of the seriousness of this condition, we really don't think using this product is safe right now."