By Adam J. Langino and Leslie M. Kroeger
Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that are used to inhale aerosolized liquid and chemical flavorants, typically containing nicotine. E-cigarettes were first patented in 2003 and have been available for sale in the U.S. since 2007. They are growing rapidly in popularity. By January 2014, there were 466 brands and 7,764 unique flavors. The products now represent a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. Retail and online sales were projected to reach $10 billion by 2017. Prices for the devices range from $30 to over more than $300, with a corresponding range in battery size, liquid capacity, and vapor output.
E-cigarette explosions were once thought to be rare. For instance, the U.S. Fire Administration found only 25 explosions between January 2009 and August 2014. However, explosions are becoming much more common. According to a September 15, 2018, study in Tobacco Control, from 2015 to 2017 there were an estimated 2,035 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries presenting to U.S. hospital emergency departments.
E-cigarettes are often sold without instructions or warnings. A June 26, 2016, study published in Tobacco Control analyzed 125 e-cigarette orders representing 86 unique brands. Product information came with just 60 percent of orders and just 38.4 percent included an instruction manual. Only 44.6 percent of products included a health warning, and some had unsupported claims, such as lack of secondhand smoke exposure. Additionally, some products were leaking e-liquid and battery fluid on arrival.
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NOTE: Cohen Milstein is conducting an investigation into a widely reported multi-state outbreak of lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarette, vape, e-hookah, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) products, including devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges.