A student at Syracuse University is suing Juul Labs, the e-cigarette company, for "serious injury" about two years after he started using the company's products.
Maxwell Berger, 22, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in July 2017 that paralyzed the left side of her body, caused her to lose half of the vision in both eyes and resulted in cognitive impairment and brain damage, according to the trial filed in July 2019. He started using Juul in 2015 and finally managed to use up to two capsules a day around the time of the stroke.
Berger alleges that the electronic cigarette played an important role in his injuries. The lawsuit comes as there are more than 400 reported cases of pulmonary diseases related to the use of vapot or electronic cigarette, five of which could result in death, according to The New York Times. In New York State, 41 cases of severe pulmonary disease related to vaping have been reported. At least one case has been reported in central New York.
The 41 cases reported to the New York State Department of Health involve the use of at least one product containing vape containing cannabis before falling ill. The ministry announced Thursday that vitamin E oil was present in almost all samples containing cannabis analyzed. Oil is now the main focus of the investigation.
After hospitalization for more than 100 days, Berger underwent three brain surgeries and severe nicotine withdrawal, which led doctors to provide him with a nicotine patch. The lawsuit did not explicitly indicate whether Berger was suffering from lung diseases.
"While he struggles and continues to fight for his recovery and to lead a life as normal as possible, the brain and other physical injuries of Mr. Berger have led him to become more withdrawn, depressed, aggressive and impatient with his family and friends, "the lawsuit states.
Berger is enrolled in the SU repertoire as a junior at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. He did not respond to requests for comments sent to his university's e-mail address. Berger is represented by the law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. Sarah London, a lawyer representing Berger, was not available for an interview.
We have launched an aggressive action plan to combat the use of minors, which is contrary to our mission. To the extent that this case claims the opposite, the whole thing is without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process.
Ted Kwong, spokesperson for Juul Labs
The complaint also states that Juul, other electronic cigarette companies, researchers and marketers have not disclosed the health risks associated with their products. Berger was exposed for the first time to Juul's commercials in mid-2015, during his final year of high school, according to the lawsuit.
"Businesses are saying these things are safe, and we're seeing more and more that's not the case," said Karyn Johnson, coordinator of the Onondaga County Health Department Anti-Smoking Program.
Berger has developed an addiction to Juul, which contains highly addictive chemical nicotine, a few weeks after the first use of the product, according to the lawsuit. He frequently used Juul products until July 2017 and finally reached a point where he was inhaling the device every 10 to 20 minutes, according to the lawsuit.
Before using Juul, Berger was not addicted to nicotine. According to the lawsuit, he did not know that the products contained the chemical at the beginning of his use.
Ted Kwong, a spokesman for Juul, said in an email to the Daily Orange that the company's product should only be an alternative for adults who are already smoking.
Kwong said that the use of minors was in contrast to Juul's mission. "To the extent that this case claims otherwise, the case is unfounded and we will defend our mission throughout this process," he said.
Karleigh Merritt-Henry | Digital design editor
Juul Labs implemented an action plan in November 2018 to combat Juul's use of juveniles. The company has discontinued the distribution of Juul pods with mango, cream, cucumber and fruit. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in September 2018 that the flavors of the electronic cigarette contributed to their appeal to youth. The flavors are now sold only on the company's website, which now has controls to prevent users under the age of 21 from buying products.
Johnson said the fact that Juul and other e-cigarettes can contain more nicotine than regular cigarettes is a "worrying" difference.
"People can become addicted to these products without really understanding what they are taking into their bodies," said Johnson.
In the state of New York, 27.4% of high school students used electronic cigarettes, she said.
Cuomo announced Monday that it would propose a law banning flavored electronic cigarettes. The state health department will also issue emergency regulations requiring warning signs to be installed in all smoke and smoke stores in the state.
The governor also ordered the ministry to issue subpoenas to three companies that were found to have marketed thickening agents – almost pure vitamin E oil – from liquid manufacturers. Companies assigned to appear will be required to assist the department's investigation. Juul was not among them.
"The increase in the number of diseases associated with vapors is a frightening public health phenomenon, and I ask the Ministry of Health to take several steps to address this crisis," Cuomo said.
Published on September 10, 2019 at 11:15 pm
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