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Chewing Tobacco and Smokeless Tobacco Injuries

There is an inherent danger in using tobacco products. Cigarette smoking kills an estimated 480,000 Americans each year. Thousands more suffer tobacco-related injuries from chewing tobacco. Tobacco use remains the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smokeless tobacco may seem harmless because it has been used openly by athletes, celebrities, and others for decades. People who have lost loved ones from mouth cancer or other cancers caused by chewing tobacco would strongly disagree.

The fact remains that smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco are potentially deadly tobacco products. Many smokeless tobacco products contain cancer-causing chemicals.

The following discusses chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco injuries. This article also discusses what to do if you or your loved one gets sick or dies after using these tobacco products.

The Dangers of Using Smokeless Tobacco and Chewing Tobacco

Like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookah water pipes, using smokeless tobacco comes with an increased risk of getting cancer. Chewing tobacco contains 28 carcinogens known to cause cancer.

Some of the health risks of tobacco include:

  • Oral cancer of the mouth and throat
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Stomach cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Increased chances of getting cardiac diseases, heart attacks, and strokes
  • Developing leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can become cancer)
  • Tooth decay
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic bad breath

Pregnant women who use smokeless tobacco increase their risks for health problems such as preeclampsia, premature birth, and having a baby with a dangerously low birth weight.

Federal Warning Labels: Smokeless and Chewing Tobacco

When a product is inherently dangerous, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often requires that manufacturers include warnings on their packaging. For decades, the manufacturers of tobacco products have included these warnings on products like cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and other smokeless tobacco products.

Some of these warnings include:

  • This Product May Cause Gum Disease And Tooth Loss
  • This Product May Cause Mouth Cancer
  • This Product Is Not A Safe Alternative To Cigarettes

Just because the companies place these warning labels on their products does not relieve them of liability if someone is hurt. In extreme cases, consumers who become sick or pass away from using dangerous products can sue the manufacturer. In limited circumstances, they file individual lawsuits. It's more common, however, for them to join a class action lawsuit.

Smokeless Tobacco Class Actions

Many states have sued tobacco companies over smokeless chewing tobacco usage, advertising, and health effects on users. For example, Massachusetts, California, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Wyoming have all filed lawsuits against tobacco product manufacturers.

Many of the recent lawsuits have involved e-cigarettes and vapes. Companies are less forthcoming in the warnings on these products. There is also new evidence showing the actual dangers of vaping.

Of course, to sue a tobacco product manufacturer, your personal injury lawyer must show that you suffered a loss. This is the case with any product liability lawsuit. It's not enough that you used a smokeless tobacco product. You must demonstrate that using this product made you sick or caused your loved one's death.

Chewing and Smokeless Tobacco Injuries - Your Legal Rights

You might be one of those people who have chewed or spit tobacco or tobacco juice since you were a teenager, or maybe you may have played sports for over a decade and used other smokeless tobacco products. It can take a long time before you realize you're sick.

While you have the right to sue a tobacco product manufacturer, you will face challenges. It will be difficult to prove that the defendant's product made you sick. The manufacturer will argue that some other factor caused your cancer or other health issue. They hope you'll back down, thinking you cannot win in court. This is why you should contact an attorney to learn about your legal rights. 

You have a right to be safe from dangerous products. There's no way you'll be able to prove that you didn't know smokeless tobacco products are hazardous, as there are warnings all over these products. In addition, there are all kinds of public service initiatives reminding people of how dangerous tobacco products are. You must show that the defendant misled customers with their warnings or downplayed the harm smokeless tobacco users face.

Why Are These Dangerous Products Still on the Market?

Consumers first sued the tobacco companies in the 1950s. For decades, the federal government and federal courts debated whether "Big Tobacco" was liable for smoking-related injuries. The FDA has known that smokeless tobacco products are dangerous for years, but they still allow tobacco companies to sell them.

Part of the reason these products are still on the market is that consumers want them. Even though they are dangerous, millions of Americans still buy and use these products yearly. The way the FDA sees it, as long as the manufacturers are clear and transparent about the products' dangers, they have done their part.

If consumers choose to buy these products rather than quit smoking or using nicotine replacement therapy, how can they still sue the manufacturer? There are times when manufacturer warnings are not thorough enough, or the alerts may be misleading or placed on the product where consumers may not see it. There are also cases where tobacco companies have been liable for targeting young consumers.

How Can You Prove the Manufacturer Is Liable for Your Injuries?

Your attorney must prove that the defendant is responsible for your injuries to recover damages. This is hard enough to do in an ordinary personal injury case, but even more challenging in a dangerous product case.

These cases do not involve negligence, nor will the courts apply a strict liability standard. Instead, your lawyer must demonstrate that the defendant failed to adequately warn you of their product's dangers.

Some of the claims against tobacco companies that have been successful in recent years include:

  • The manufacturer aggressively advertised their products while downplaying the risks
  • The defendant misled consumers in the form or content of their warnings
  • The company failed to provide warnings altogether

Once you prove that the defendant's behavior warrants damages, you'll have to prove that they suffered actual harm. If you can prove that you suffered lung cancer from using smokeless tobacco products, you may recover damages. Maybe you'll be able to demonstrate that you developed mouth cancer from the use of smokeless tobacco.

What Damages Can You Demand in Your Lawsuit?

If you prevail in your lawsuit, your attorney will demand that the defendant pay your damages. These will vary depending on the nature and extent of your injury. For example, if you use oral tobacco and develop curable oral cancer, you'll receive less than if you have terminal lung cancer.

It also depends on the types of smokeless tobacco you use. Some consumers may assume that dissolvable tobacco is harmless, depending on the product's warnings, or they may have used other forms of smokeless tobacco, such as ground tobacco, that appeared to be less dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

In most of these cases, plaintiffs demand some or all of the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional duress
  • Wrongful death

Your lawyer must prove each type of damages listed in your complaint.

Smokeless and Chewing Tobacco Injuries - Getting Legal Help

Scores of cigarette smokers and smokeless tobacco users have sued tobacco companies in recent decades. If you or a loved one develops an illness or injury after using smokeless or chewing tobacco, you may have a legal claim. It depends on the circumstances of your situation.

Contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options and to decide how best to proceed. Visit Findlaw's product liability attorney directory to find a lawyer near you.

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