CDC Updates Case Count in Investigation of Vaping-related Lung Disease and Deaths

Recently, I blogged about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Sep. 9 warning letter issued to JUUL Labs, Inc. for illegal marketing of its e-cigarette products as safer alternatives than other tobacco products. Of particular concern was JUUL’s marketing tactics directed to youth and young adults. For example, one JUUL representative made several misleading claims in a school presentation directed toward youth, including that JUUL is “much safer than cigarettes,” the “FDA would approve it any day,” and that it was “a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes” for youth addicted to nicotine. None of these claims have been confirmed or approved by the FDA.

As previously reported, the warning came as federal health officials working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated 450 possible cases and six deaths related to vaping-related lung disease in 33 states. On Sep. 13, however, the CDC released a new report reducing the number of confirmed and probable cases from 450 to 380.

This is not to say that the additional cases are not related to vaping. The CDC changed its official count to include only lung disease cases that have been classified as “confirmed” or “probable” in terms of being linked to vaping. The number drop is a result of the CDC dropping “possible cases that [a]re still under investigation by states,” but it is likely to increase again as the possible cases are classified.

To be classified as “confirmed” or “probable”, a case has to meet the following criteria:

  • Use of an e-cigarette device or dabbing within 90 days of symptom onset
  • Presence of pulmonary infiltrate
  • No evidence of other likely causes in the medical history record

In the Sep. 13 report, the CDC cites cases identified in 36 states as well as six confirmed vaping-related deaths that occurred in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon. Since then, however, a seventh person has died in California due to lung disease linked to vaping. The death was confirmed by a representative at the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency on Sep. 16: “With sadness, we report that there has been a death of a Tulare County resident suspected to be related to severe pulmonary injury associated with vaping.”

If you or a loved one became addicted to nicotine or developed lung disease as a result of using JUUL’s e-cigarette products, contact the attorneys at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A. in Ohio today to discuss your legal options today.