E-Cigarette Lawsuit Resulting from Diacetyl Exposure


What is an E-Cigarette

Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, E-Hookahs, Mods, Tank Systems and Vape Pens, are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that deliver nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals through a vapor rather than tobacco smoke. Instead of delivering nicotine by burning tobacco, e-cigarettes provide it to users in the form of water vapor. In many e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The resulting aerosol or vapor is then inhaled, a practice known as vaping.

E-cigarettes are being marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. More than 250 different brands of e-cigarettes are currently on the market. The devices are extremely popular with teenagers, increasing in use by 900 percent among U.S. high school students, according to a December 2016 report compiled by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.


E-Cigarette Lawsuit Considered for Diacetyl Exposure

There are currently no E-cigarette lawsuits for diacetyl exposure, but TruLaw continues to monitor the regulation on these toxic chemicals in E-cigarettes and whether the manufacturers disclose these risks to users. There is little research currently available on the potential adverse health effects associated with inhaling the flavorings in e-liquids, but attention is now turning to the damage that the diacetyl used to flavor e-cigarettes is doing to consumers, particularly younger ones who may be more susceptible to toxic exposure.

There are currently no requirements for manufacturers to indicate whether e-liquids contain diacetyl or acetyl propionyl (AP), and the only requirement is that the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products must contain a nicotine warning statement. There also are no applicable standards for the composition of e­liquids, including no governmental recommendations or restrictions on diacetyl levels in e­liquids.

While not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they often include harmful ingredients like diacetyl; a chemical flavoring that has been connected with a serious lung disease in workers exposed to the chemical.


Lung Disease – Will E-Cigarettes Be the Next Popcorn Lung?

Bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung, has been tied to the inhalation of diacetyl by workers in plants that use diacetyl as a flavoring additive to their products. Products known to use diacetyl include popcorn, coffee, pet food, and tortillas.

Diacetyl, a flavoring chemical linked to cases of severe respiratory disease referred to as “popcorn lung” was found in more than 75% of flavored electronic cigarettes, according to a Harvard Chan School of Public Health study. (Delete from Blog on 5/1/16)

Popcorn lung (or technically called “bronchiolitis obliterans”) first appeared in workers who inhaled the artificial butter flavor in mircowave popcorn processing facilities.  Later, studies and lawsuits showed that popcorn lung diagnosis were also made on workers in other manufacturing facilities that also use diacetyl, such as coffee bean processing plants, tortilla factories, pet food manufacturers and other facilities that heated the dangerous chemical diacetyl.  Individuals diagnosed with popcorn lung inhaled a the fumes coming from diacetyl.

More research is needed to determine how the heating mechanism in E-cigarettes heats the flavored E-juice, a large percentage of which contains diacetyl.   It is not yet known to what extent this dangerous liquid will effect the lungs from vaping and whether E-cigarette smokers will be diagnosed with popcorn lung as a result of the inhalation of diacetyl.  Unfortunately, the popularity of vaping is relatively new and these studies will take time and in the meantime the very vocal vaping community will continue to dispel any connection between popcorn lung and E-cigarettes.

Until studies are complete, the E-cigarette makers will still be allowed to use diacetyl for flavoring in the E-juice without warning the public and its up to consumers to decided if this is a risk worth taking.


Vaping Remains Popular, Risks and Advantages Not Fully Understood

E-cigarettes use battery power to turn liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor that was first touted as safer for current smokers, although there is no scientific consensus on the risks or advantages of vaping, including how it might affect the likelihood that someone will start using conventional tobacco products or be able to stop smoking.

Federal figures made public the same day as the Surgeon General’s announcement showed that in 2015, 16 percent of high school students reported at least some use of e-cigarettes, even those who had never smoked a traditional cigarette. According to the report, e-cigarette use is higher among high school students than adults.

A 2016 study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the journal Pediatrics came to a sobering conclusion: older teens who try electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are six times more likely to try combustible cigarettes within two years, compared to those who have never used the devices.

The study involved about 300 southern California high school students, about half of who said they had at least tried an e-cigarette in 2014. In a follow-up survey conducted in 2015, about 40 percent of those who had tried e-cigarettes the previous year had moved on to traditional cigarettes, compared with 11 percent who said they had not tried e-cigarettes in the 2014 survey. The survey participants included 11th and 12th grade students who were at least 18 years old by the time of the second survey.

Recent research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that many of the more than 7,000 e-cigarette flavorings that make vaping so appealing to young people are made using chemicals that can severely damage the lungs. Most common among these flavorings was diacetyl, which was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the 51 unique flavors tested by the team. At least one flavoring chemical was detected in 47 of the 51 flavors tested.


Regulatory History of E-Cigarettes

In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule extending the agency’s regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes, e-pipes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), banning sales of the devices to anyone under age 18. This followed a 2015 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that ENDS be regulated as tobacco products because of concerns that use of the devices would lead teens to smoke traditional cigarettes and expose their developing brains to nicotine.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine to the bloodstream at levels comparable to traditional cigarettes, but they also introduce a few additional substances that conventional cigarettes do not.

In a report made public December 8th, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the growing use of electronic cigarettes has the potential to “create a whole new generation of kids who are addicted to nicotine.”

Although Murthy said more research is needed focusing on the effects of e-cigarettes, he called vaping an “emerging public health threat” for young people, adding that they are not harmless and too many adolescents are using them.