At Chappell, Chappell and Newman, we’re dedicated to helping injured clients across South Carolina get the justice they deserve, and we also want to extend that dedication to students in their pursuit of higher education. That’s why we’re proud to offer a privately funded scholarship to help college students obtain their degrees and build a better future.
For our second essay contest this year, we asked college students to answer the following prompt:
Vaping and manufacturer liability: Should electronic cigarette manufacturers be held liable for injuries and sustained lung damage as a result of vaping? Why or why not?
After reviewing more than 150 submissions, we’re pleased to announce the winner—Madelyn Heckert from Portland State University!
Here’s her winning essay:
Making E-Cigarette Manufacturers Pay
I was walking home from dance practice with a friend when she pulled out a dab pen. Smiling, she told me to try it. I hesitated, asking if it was safe. She nodded and explained that it’s safer than smoking. I still refused because I figured that inhaling artificial smoke was probably not the best for your lungs. I went home and researched. I saw reports of damaged lungs (American Lung Association) and injuries from exploding batteries (Seitz). I didn’t see any mention of those though in the advertisements, which is why I can see why my friend thought vaping is safe. My friend has been lucky so far but for everyone else with injuries or lung damage deserves damages from the manufacturers.
E-cigarette manufacturers can be held liable for injuries if it’s shown they have a design, manufacturing, or advertising defect. A design defect is when the product is made correctly but the faulty design is dangerous. A manufacturing design is when the product was not produced correctly, and the defect is dangerous. An advertising defect is when the product is advertised without the correct warning or instructions. E-cigarettes show both a design defect and an advertising defect.
Exploding batteries indicate a design defect. If manufacturers put in too strong a battery or an unstable battery, that is a dangerous design and manufacturers should be held liable.
Lung damage from vaping indicates both a design defect and an advertising defect. The manufacturers advertise that vaping’s safer than smoking cigarettes, but independent studies show this is false. E-cigarettes may not contain tobacco, but they expose the user to toxic substances, such as “heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs” (United States, Department of Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The flavorings are connected to severe respiratory disease (Roeder). They are an unreasonably dangerous product and when compared to cigarettes, they may be just as dangerous or more so. Studies indicate that JUULs deliver more nicotine to the bloodstream than cigarettes, as nicotine concentrations were five to eight times higher in rodents exposed to JUULs than other tobacco products. The high levels of nicotine make JUULs extremely addictive (Maier). Any product that is addictive should not be labeled as ‘safe’ or ‘safer’.
Instead of warning consumers about the addictive properties and the potential health effects, the manufacturers led consumers to believe that e-cigarettes are safe. Consumers lacked the information that they needed to assess the dangers. Sometimes, the product labels did not even correctly identify the chemicals and levels of nicotine (Parikh). The manufacturers portray vaping as a harmless, fun activity, but there are a lot of hidden dangers that they failed to disclose. Some of the resulting injuries and lung damage are very serious. The manufacturers should be held liable and should be made to pay damages for consumers injured in the past and those like my friend who are potentially going to be injured in the future.
“E-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).” American Lung Association, lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/evali. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.
Maier, Scott. “JUUL Delivers Substantially More Nicotine than Previous Generation E-Cigs and Cigarettes.” UCSF, 6 Jan 2020, JUUL Delivers Substantially More Nicotine than Previous Generation E-Cigs and Cigarettes | UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Accessed 25 Nov. 2022.
Parikh, Sudip. “We Need to Fill The Gap Between What We Know and Don’t Know About E-cigarettes.” Health Affairs, 5 May 2016, healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20160505.054779/. Accessed 25 Nov. 2022.
Roeder, Amy. “Focus on Nicotine Overshadowed Other Hazards Attached to Smoking Device.” The Harvard Gazette, 8 Dec. 2015, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/12/chemical-flavorings-found-in-e-cigarettes-linked-to-lung-disease/ Accessed 25 Nov. 2022.
Seitz, Christopher and Zubair Kabir. “Burn Injuries Caused by E-cigarette Explosions: A Systemic Review of Published Cases.” Tobacco Prevention Cessation, 10 Sep. 2018, Burn injuries caused by e-cigarette explosions: A systematic review of published cases (tobaccopreventioncessation.com). Accessed 25 Nov. 2022.
“Surgeon’s General’s Advisory on E-cigarette Use Among Youth.” United States, Department of Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dec. 2018, Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-cigarette Use Among Youth | Smoking & Tobacco Use | CDC. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.
About the winner
Madelyn is a twin who grew up in Oregon. She was a competitive cheerleader, and in her junior year, as co-captain, she led her team to first place at nationals in Anaheim. She also plays the flute and was in concert band or symphonic band all four years of high school. She works at a nursing home and does karaoke on Friday nights. As an engineering major at PSU, her goal is to be a civil engineer with an environmental focus.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our college essay contest, and congratulations, Madelyn, on your scholarship!
If you’re interested in entering a future essay contest, be sure to check out our scholarship page for more details. Good luck!