Before COVID-19 took over headlines in the United States, there was another epidemic raging in our country — teen vaping. And it’s still a problem, public health officials warn.

The issue “has been overshadowed” by the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Today. “But it’ll come back.”

Parents and school officials need to take note, she says, because “vaping is still an important issue just as I think smoking is still an important issue … We’ve sort of forgotten about it because we’ve had a bigger health concern to worry about.”

The pandemic has stunted vaping among youth, but experts warn of a resurgence as kids get back to school. A study conducted in May and published this month in JAMA Network Open found that a third of the 2,100 people ages 13 to 24 who said they regularly vaped had kicked the habit. Another third said they had reduced their vaping. But 17% said they had started vaping more.

One reason for teens cutting back may be due to the vape-related lung injury that peaked in September 2019 that hospitalized more than 2,800 people and killed at least 68. Another reason is likely because stay-at-home orders and school closures have forced middle and high schoolers to be more under their parents’ eye than before.

“We were in the midst of almost a social contagion of the spread of e-cigarettes across high schools in the United States and suddenly when COVID came, everything closed and everything became remote,” Rigotti said. “So one possibility is that not being in an environment where there were lots of other kids and e-cigarettes available might have sort of stopped or reduced or cut into that contagion.”

While the numbers of young vapers have reduced in recent months, the epidemic is far from resolved. Parents are urged to use this “golden opportunity” to talk to their kids about the harmful effects of vaping. Otherwise, when schools return to normal, health officials fear their vaping habits will step up as well.

In October 2019, Beasley Allen attorneys and co-counsel filed what are believed to be among the first lawsuits on behalf of U.S. school districts that aim to hold vape giant JUUL accountable for the youth vaping epidemic. The school districts claim JUUL used deceptive marketing strategies to target youth; endangering them with addictive, nicotine-containing vapes; and forced schools to redirect staff and resources to prevent vaping in schools and deal with nicotine-addicted kids.

Vape litigation

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt, Sydney Everett, James Lampkin, Beau Darley, Soo Seok Yang, and Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing a number of individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. These lawyers currently make up our firm’s JUUL Litigation Team. Lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of school districts and public entities across the country, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic. If you have a potential claim or need more information on JUUL, contact any of the lawyers on the team.

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