Educators and administrators in school districts across the country are scrambling to help prevent and respond to the use of e-cigarette use among students, often on school premises. Now, three school districts are suing the largest maker of e-cigarettes, alleging that the manufacturer should pay damages for affecting young students.
Olathe Public Schools in Kansas, Three Village Central School District in New York, Francis Howell School District in Missouri and La Conner School District in Washington state are suing Juul. The lawsuits were announced Monday and Tuesday (Oct. 7-8).
Juul Accused Of Marketing To Teens
La Conner School District superintendent Whitney Meissner told The Boston Globe, “We’re tired of companies that just want to make money at children’s expense.”
The lawsuits allege that Juul intentionally and illegally marketed its e-cigarette pods to teenagers. One of the lawsuits argues that Juul is “taking a page from big tobacco’s playbook” by developing “a product and marketing strategy that sought to portray its e-cigarette products as trendsetting, stylish and used by the type of people teenagers look up to,” The New York Times reported.
Jonathan Kieffer, of the law firm Wagstaff & Cartmell in Kansas City, Missouri, is representing three of the school districts. He expects to see many other districts filing similar lawsuits.
The First Of Many Lawsuits
“The lawsuits that we filed… were the first in what we fully anticipate will be many, many more to follow in the coming weeks and months as many school districts have decided to go on the offensive to combat the epidemic of youth vaping in the nation’s schools,” said Kieffer. “America’s schools are truly on the front lines of this epidemic, which has crossed all geographic and demographic lines and is increasing at an alarming rate in all regions of the country and impacting urban, suburban and rural schools.”
Forty percent of high school seniors in New York state have used nicotine vapes, according to 2019 data. More than a quarter of high schoolers have used vapes within the past 30 days. Kieffer said that schools have had to install new technology, hire staff and spend money educating parents and students about the dangers of vaping.
Superintendent Blames Vaping’s Popularity On Marketing
The massive popularity of vapes is in part due to the marketing of companies like Juul, which controls the vast majority of the U.S. e-cigarette market, said John Allison, superintendent of Olathe Public Schools.
“As smart as our students are, they don’t understand the long-term ramifications of vaping and the amount of addictive chemicals they are dealing with,” he said. “It’s our role to protect our students today and in the future.”