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Vaping started out – allegedly – as a new way to quit smoking cigarettes, but e-cigarette products have become increasingly popular among young people – and may be causing them to suffer severe and unexpected health problems. Last week, NBC reported multiple cases linking vaping to lung damage and breathing problems. Doctors and health officials are investigating cases in at least eight states, many of which involve teens and young adults who have worsening symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and coughing. These otherwise healthy people all have vaping in common.

It’s not news that certain vaping products are particularly popular among teens and young adults. In fact, kids and teenagers were likely directly targeted, through advertising, social media, and marketing campaigns that were designed to make vaping look cool. An analysis of JUUL ads shows that though the company claimed they don’t target teens, their marketing was “patently youth-oriented.” Just last week, there was a protest of parents and anti-vaping advocates outside the JUUL offices in Manhattan. They are pushing to restrict the company from selling flavored e-cigarette products, which they say further attract kids. 

Vaping is touted as introducing fewer chemicals into users’ bodies than traditional cigarettes do, but they’re still dangerous. Are JUUL and other e-cigarette companies doing enough to warn the public (particularly young people) about their products’ adverse effects? 

If manufacturers are not doing their due diligence, there is a possibility that we could see legal action much like the litigation against the tobacco industry. Newer tobacco lawsuits have focused on “light” cigarettes, for example, which plaintiffs argue companies advertise as being healthier than traditional cigarettes, when, in fact, they are no safer. They follow three waves of litigation against Big Tobacco dating back as far as the 1950s. Those lawsuits focus on tobacco companies’ inadequate warnings, negligent advertising, and more. 

The youth vaping trend is now being viewed as a new public health crisis, and we’ll follow along to see where upcoming legal action may lead. 

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