NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — One Connecticut Law firm is making it their mission to educate and represent Connecticut residents about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

President of the Carter Mario Law Firm, Carter Mario joins us.

Why the e-cigarette campaign? JUUL has created a new generation of nicotine addicts, not by converting adult smokers, but by targeting children through deceptive trade practices: through social media campaigns, easily disguisable products, and fruity flavors, specifically targeting children. The product was touted as a healthier alternative for smokers but has increasingly shown that it may not be healthier after all. Carter Mario Law Firm wants to hold them accountable.

How big is the problem? Last year, the CDC released a nationwide study on the prevalence of e-cigarette use among middle and high school students. Among high school students, current use of e-cigarettes increased from 1.5% in 2011 (220,000 students) to 20.8% of high schoolers in 2018 (3.05 million students) who reported smoking an e-cigarette at least once within the preceding 30 days. The latest research suggests it’s up to 25% of high schoolers reporting current vaping use nationwide.

Are Connecticut children impacted? Yes. In 2015 and 2017, the Connecticut State Department of Public Health conducted a youth tobacco survey to assess the prevalence of tobacco use in Connecticut. The year-over-year trends are similarly concerning. From 2015 to 2017, the current e-cigarette use in high schoolers doubled in Connecticut. In 2017, 14.7% of high school students reported current use of electronic nicotine delivery systems, over double the 7.2% reported users of 2015. That is 1 in 10 ninth graders and over 1 in 5 twelfth graders. To put that in context, this represents over 25,000 high schoolers in the State of Connecticut who reported using an e-cigarette in the last thirty days. Given the national trends, this is likely an understatement as to the severity of this issue in Connecticut.

Why is this a problem? This is especially concerning given the recent and sharp rise in vaping-related illnesses reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, as well as the severity of health risks associated with such illnesses. Just last month, Connecticut saw its first vaping-related death—the 19th confirmed vaping-related death nationwide at that time. All-in-all twenty-five cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health to-date, with the majority of reported cases occurring in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. Notably, 1 in 5 of the reported vaping-related illnesses are occurring in minors, children under 18 years of age.

What are the known symptoms of vaping-related illnesses? The symptoms of a vape-related lung injury include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and abdominal pain, but there are more serious risks as well, including death. In April of this year, the FDA also warned of a possible seizure risk in youth and young adults, which is a known potential side effect of nicotine poisoning. When JUUL e-cigarettes entered the market, the percent nicotine per volume for most brands then existing was 1 to 2 percent. JUUL changed the baseline, entering the market at 5.9 percent nicotine per volume, nearly 3 times the market average. It’s no wonder side effects of nicotine poisoning and addiction are manifesting.

What has the response been since the start of the marketing campaign? A great number of the inquiries stem from concerned parents, calling on behalf of their middle-school-aged or high-school aged children with vape-related injuries mirroring those seen nationwide. Hitting hard, is the common phrase: “my child is addicted.” “He can’t stop.” “When she tries to stop, she has withdrawals.” Other calls have come from adults seeking a smoking alternative who have experienced similar injuries. The extent of the response they have received gives them pause. Some of the parents are calling about children who are just 14 years old. Others are just 16 or 17 and have been vaping for 2+ years already. JUUL targeted these children who are now suffering, and because of the nature of nicotine, these children are now struggling to stop.

If you are injured or suffering from addiction due to e-cigarettes, call 203-876-2711. Carter Mario Law Firm wants to help.