The epidemic of youth vaping in the U.S. often dominates headlines as minors and young adults continue to use JUULs and other vape devices in alarming numbers. Less often heard are the personal stories of kids and teens struggling with the effects vaping has had on their lives, stories such as that told by former high school hockey player Cade Beauparlant.
Cade, 18, grew up in the northeastern Massachusetts town of Newburyport. Starting in middle school, his hockey skills attracted the attention of college recruiters. He became the captain of his high school’s hockey team when he was a freshman, and his prospects of playing college hockey were a given.
Eventually Cade, still a freshman hockey player, would have to sit out of games because he couldn’t breathe.
“I couldn’t stay on the ice for more than a minute and a half before being gassed,” Cade told NBC News. “My lungs couldn’t handle it. I felt like I couldn’t pull enough air into my lungs.”
His demeanor was also changing. After years of vaping, he grew anxious and angry.
His family and doctor assumed the problem was exercise-induced asthma. It wasn’t until Cade’s mother, Kristin Beauparlant, discovered a container of empty JUUL pods that the real picture emerged. Then, in his senior year, Cade was caught vaping in school.
Most high schools have strict anti-vaping policies, and student athletes found in violation can face devastating consequences. As punishment, the school stripped Cade of his role as captain of the hockey team and forced him to sit out for a quarter of the season in his senior year. His missed opportunities to advance at a critical time.
“He was being recruited. One of the coaches was coming to watch him for a prep school,” Ms. Beauparlant told NBC News. “Hard to do when you’re not playing.”
Paul Yameen, Cade’s high school hockey coach, told NBC that Cade “was such a hard-working, motivated, skillful young kid. He was our best defenseman … As soon as he started [vaping], everything changed.”
According to MassLive, Ms. Beauparlant ultimately found Cade treatment for his nicotine addiction. Doctors then retested him and diagnosed him with a restrictive lung disease.
Cade is far from alone in his struggle with vaping and the aftermath it’s had on his life. Throughout the U.S., vaping is taking its toll on students – physically, emotionally, and academically. San Francisco-based JUUL, which captured 75% of the youth vaping market by strategically creating products and promotions full of youth appeal, is mostly responsible for the ongoing epidemic of youth vaping.
Less than five years after it first splashed on the market, JUUL has become both a trend and highly addictive habit among kids and teens who would have never chosen to smoke. According to Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital, many students don’t associate JUULs with e-cigarettes and many don’t realize that JUUL pods contain nicotine, or they didn’t realize it when they pick up their first JUUL. Many assume they can stop JUULing any time they want to.
Paul Spear, athletic director at Framingham High School in Massachusetts, told MassLive that vaping, unlike smoking, entices student athletes in disturbing numbers. Once hooked, these promising athletes find that vaping harms their health as well as their chances of competing at higher levels.
“It’s affected a much wider spectrum of kids,” Mr. Spear said. “It used to be quite a daring thing to smoke a cigarette in a bathroom because you could smell it, so somebody knew that someone had been smoking. With these, there’s no way that you can know.”
According to federal health data, one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students vape. Officials say that this trend has continued into 2019, with more and more minors starting to vape. These findings have prompted the U.S. government to announce its intention to “clear the market” of all flavored vape products.
Our law firm is heavily involved in the vaping litigation representing hundreds of clients across the country. We are committed to obtaining justice for our clients and to send a message to those greedy corporate executives who are poisoning kids for profit that our kids are off limits. For more information about these claims, contact Joseph VanZandt or Sydney Everett in our Mass Torts Section.