According to the complaint, filed by named plaintiff Jerod Harris, the manufacturer markets Vuse electronic cigarettes in a way that fails to inform customers of the potential health risks incurred by using the products, specifically, inhalation of the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This violates California state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.
The lawsuit contends that RJ Reynolds began selling e-cigarettes in California during a time when consumers believed the product to be a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. This was because e-cigarettes contain nicotine but no carcinogens, they believed. However, RJ Reynolds knew this was not true, Harris claims in the suit.
"Defendant knew of this public misperception regarding the true nature of e-cigarettes, yet introduced the products without disclosing the carcinogenic exposures resulting from ordinary use thereof,"the complaint states.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated products. They work by converting nicotine and other chemicals into an aerosol which is inhaled. According to Harris, consumers incorrectly believe that they are only inhaling water vapor, not aerosol. The suit cites a study and independent testing that shows aerosol contains cancer-causing formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
The suit also asserts that contrary to the marketing of e-cigarettes, which suggest they are a safer alternative than traditional cigarette, there are several studies which show they pose health risks to users and have adverse effects on the health safety of children and teenagers.
The suit accuses RJ Vapors of violating California' Unfair Competition Law and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act by omitting the fact that the e-cigarettes expose users to carcinogenic chemicals.
The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of all California residents that purchased Vuse products from July 1, 2013, to the present.
Harris is represented by Mark N. Todzo, Donna F. Solen and Abigail Blodgett of Lexington Law Group, in addition to Christopher M. Burke, John Jasnoch, Kate Lv, Joseph P. Guglielmo and Erin Green Comite of Scott + Scott, Attorneys at Law LLP.
The case is Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., case number 3:15-cv-04075, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.