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Parents of teen vaper sue Juul; Siegel calls claim ‘patently ridiculous’

Many vape advocates were immediately outraged when news began surfacing in late April that a pair of Florida parents were suing Juul for alleging hooking their teenage daughter on vaping.  As the story spread across social media, responses from vapers were overwhelmingly negative as Twitter began to light up with eye roll animations and accusations of poor parenting skills.

Even more noteworthy, the parents of the underage, self-admittedly criminal, juul user, Erin and Jared NesSmith, also allege that juuling resulted in their 15-year-old daughter - identified as A.N. – reportedly experienced seizures.   Coincidentally, the story first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle at around the same time that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the beginnings of a new probe into possible links between vaping and seizures. 

Related Article:  Siegel blasts San Francisco’s proposed vape ban as ‘insane’

The NesSmiths make several astonishing claims within the verbiage of the lawsuit, but their primary argument is that their daughter had absolutely no idea that Juul products contain nicotine.  In the parents’ misinformed minds, Juul “did not make it obvious enough that its products have nicotine and used sweet and fruity flavors and youth-friendly images on social media to appeal to teens.”

Dr. Michael Siegel blasts the NesSmiths’ lawsuit

The NesSmiths are a white, attractive, upper middle-class family.  This appealing combination of collective traits makes them a prime target for anti-vaping activists like the notorious Stanton Glanz in search of making a quick buck.  Equating the NesSmith lawsuit to those filed in the 1990s against Big Tobacco companies citing similar claims of criminal negligence, Glantz and others like him may be trying to paint the NesSmiths as the new poster family for poor, “unsuspecting” teen vapers and the witless parents who ineptly attempt to raise them.   

“These are generally the same kinds of theories used in the tobacco litigation before, pretty successfully…This is kind of the opening shot in the litigation sphere, at least at a private level.”

At least one highly-respected public health expert isn’t falling for the NesSmiths’ balderdash.  Once again, Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University of Public Health is coming to the rescue by blasting the Juul lawsuit for containing mounds of “fraudulent misinformation.”  In his blog The Rest of the Story:  Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary, Siegel itemizes at least nine individual issues with the lawsuit that are factually inaccurate right from the start. 

Related Article:  Dr. Michael Siegel blasts American Lung Association for lying about vaping

For example, one of the most glaring falsehoods contained in the NesSmith lawsuit is a statement claiming that "nicotine itself is a carcinogen."  Dr. Siegel points out that this is patently untrue, according to International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

But the accusation that seems to have really gotten Siegel’s goat is one that claims Juul and Altria are secretly colluding to somehow use teen juuling as a gateway for an entirely new generation of Marlboro cigarette addicts.  Siegel calls this notion “patently ridiculous.”

“Not only is there no evidence to back up this claim, but it is patently ridiculous. You don't get kids addicted to Marlboro by marketing Juul. You get kids addicted to Juul by marketing Juul. Data from the PATH study demonstrate that becoming a regular vaper is a path away from smoking, not towards smoking. In fact, the only kids who currently progress to smoking are those who do not become regular vapers. Why would a company think that by addicting kids to a mango-flavored product, they would suddenly develop a desire for the harsh taste of Marlboro? Altria may have a history of being sinister, but they are not stupid.”

According to Siegel, the lawsuit doesn’t seem to have much merit, but strange rulings occur regularly within the American judicial system all the time.  He does not deny that teen vaping is a very serious issue and that Juul may carry “some responsibility for having created the problem.” Siegel merely suggests that accusing a vapor company of making false claims doesn’t hold much merit when the lawsuit being filed contains multiple false claims of its own.

Related Article:  In case you missed it: Dr. Siegel debunks ‘vaping causes heart attacks’ study as Junk Science

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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