The vape related lung injury that reared its head in early summer 2019 and began to dwindle amid rising cases of COVID-19, has reared its ugly head again in Utah. The lung injury, named e-cigarette, or vaping, product-use associated lung injury, or EVALI, by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has only exacerbated doctors’ efforts to diagnose and treat patients during the global pandemic. EVALI is, after all, entirely preventable. And, the public is largely aware what causes it — vaping.
As of Feb. 18, 2020, a total of 2,807 people had been hospitalized with EVALI across the country, and 68 people have died. Public health officials had seen numbers of EVALI drop off last year after a public health push to warn consumers to avoid illegal THC vapes, and the removal of vitamin E acetate (an e-liquid additive and likely culprit) from some products. Law enforcement also took action to get illicit vape products off the street. The number of cases dropped and the CDC stopped taking case counts.
But it didn’t take long for the warning signals to shift to COVID-19 and for consumers to erroneously assume vaping was somehow suddenly safe. Doctors in Utah are seeing an uptick in EVALI cases once they’ve ruled out COVID-19, according to Intermountain Healthcare Pulmonologist Dr. Denitza Vlagev.
“Someone may come in with low oxygen and shortness of breath, but people can be hesitant to say they vape,” she told KLS News Radio. “And for clinicians, when we are seeing patients, when we suspect COVID, once we’ve ruled out COVID, [we need to] be sure we are getting that vaping history and be thinking about EVALI as well.”
In June, health officials in San Diego saw a similar increase in EVALI cases. The CDC recommends people not use THC-containing vape products or vapes from informal sources such as friends, family, pop-up shops, or online sellers. The agency also warns youth, young adults, and pregnant women against vaping altogether.
Vape companies like JUUL have come under fire for targeting youth with flavored vapes and marketing campaigns featuring social media influencers. Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives.
Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.