“I was in the hospital for vaping THC dab darts. They were fake. I can’t stress enough: all you underage people, don’t vape.”
It was the message 15-year-old Nikolaus DiLuzo gave, sitting next to his mother, a registered nurse, in a YouTube video where both Nikolaus and his mother laid out the cold, hard facts of his near-death experience with vaping.
“I was in the hospital, hospitalized for 12 days,” he said. “And damn, did it scare me … and it scared my family.”
Nikolaus developed nausea and chills on Sunday, May 10. By Tuesday, his fever had spiked to 103. He developed a cough and was vomiting and nauseous. Because it was during the coronavirus pandemic, Nikolaus was tested for COVID-19, as well as the flu and strep throat. He tested negative for everything and was told to recoup at home. But his symptoms worsened.
By Wednesday, he was in the ER and given fluids, but he continued to get worse. He was transferred to another hospital and tested two more times for COVID-19. While his chest X-rays showed extensive clouding in his lungs, his COVID-19 tests remained negative.
After talking with Nikolaus, doctor’s determined that his sudden and serious illness was caused by vaping. Cases of EVALI, short for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury, were first emerging this time last year, and as the outbreak began to quell last fall due to public health efforts and crackdowns on illegal vape cartridges, cases begin to dwindle. As of Feb. 18, when CDC stopped keeping a constant count, 2,807 patients were hospitalized with EVALI, and 68 died.
Vaping was initially promoted as a safer alternative for smokers, though vapes contain as much if not more nicotine than cigarettes. Vape companies like JUUL started selling candy-flavored e-liquids and using social media influencers popular with teens to promote their products. The rise in teen vaping has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than a third of 12th graders reporting vaping, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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.