School Districts Suing JUUL
Beasley Allen is leading the charge against JUUL. In the past several months, the firm has filed lawsuits on behalf of young people and parents whose school-age children are struggling with the clutches of nicotine addiction and all the detrimental effects that JUUL has had in their lives. The firm’s JUUL litigation has also grown to include dozens of schools and school districts throughout the country.
On Oct. 7, 2019, Beasley Allen attorneys and co-counsel filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in Kansas, Missouri, and New York. These lawsuits are believed to be the first in the United States brought by U.S. school districts that aim to hold JUUL accountable for the youth vaping epidemic. Since that time, many more school districts have joined the fight against vape manufacturers on behalf of their students.
The school districts accuse JUUL Labs of using deceptive marketing strategies that targeted youth, endangering them with nicotine-containing e-liquids, and leaving school officials to deal with the costs – in money, time, and resources – incurred by students who have become addicted to JUUL. Those who were first to file illustrate the types of complaints schools, school districts and administrators are bringing against the vape industry.
- Olathe Public Schools (Kansas)
- Olathe Public Schools USD 233 is the second-largest district in Kansas, serving more than 30,000 students. Olathe Public Schools has experienced 53 consecutive years of growth. “The top priority of Olathe Public Schools is the safety and well-being of its students and staff. Its Superintendent John Allison recently said, “Vaping has caused a serious disruption in our buildings.” The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, case number 2:19-cv-02608.
Read the complaint, Olathe Public Schools v JUUL Labs (pdf)
- Francis Howell School District (Missouri)
- Francis Howell School District is one of the largest school districts in Missouri, encompassing over 150 square miles in the southeast corner of St. Charles County and serving nearly 18,000 students. The district includes St. Peters, Cottleville, Weldon Spring, Dardenne Prairie, Harvester, New Melle, southern portions of St. Charles City, and eastern portions of O’Fallon. The school district’s mission is to prepare students today for success tomorrow. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, case number 4:19-cv-02713.
Read the complaint, Francis Howell School District v JUUL Labs (pdf)
The lawsuit alleges that JUUL vaping products cause “significant and ongoing nicotine abuse and addiction by students at (Francis Howell) schools.” Like many other school districts, Francis Howell asserts that school vaping “frustrates (the district’s) ability to achieve its educational goals.”
- Three Village Central School District (New York)
- Three Village Central School District serves more than 6,000 students and includes Arrowhead Elementary, Minnesauke Elementary, Nassakeag Elementary, Setauket Elementary, W.S. Mount Elementary, P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School, R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, Ward Melville High School, and The Three Village Academy. Three Village is committed to providing an educational environment, which will enable each student to achieve a high level of academic proficiency and to become a well-rounded individual who is an involved, compassionate, responsible citizen. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, case number 2:19-cv-05662.
Read the complaint, Three Village Central School District v JUUL Labs (pdf)
“The Three Village Central School District has been forced to expend significant resources combatting this public nuisance of (JUUL’s) creation and will need to continue expending such resources as the epidemic shows no signs of abating on its own,” court documents state.
Engineering an Epidemic
Recent regulatory actions and legislation have targeted JUUL and other vape makers in an effort to put the brakes on the epidemic, including raising the legal vaping age, banning vapes within city limits, and restricting vape flavors. Aren’t these enough to beat back the youth vaping epidemic?
While such efforts throw obstacles in the path of minors seeking to buy JUUL products, they aren’t enough to stop and reverse the trend. JUUL invested millions of dollars in designing its products and ad campaigns with youth in mind, solidly positioning itself as an iconic must-have product among middle and high school students.
Fewer flavors does not compute to lower vaping rates. Just as generations of kids became hooked on regular and menthol cigarettes, so too will adolescents become hooked on vapes regardless of the flavor. It’s the nicotine – not the flavor – that addicts crave.
Historically, age restrictions have done almost nothing to prevent adolescents from smoking tobacco, so it doesn’t make sense to expect different results with vapes, especially when JUUL is perceived as cool and vaping is easier to hide than smoking tobacco. JUUL and other vape brands know this, which is why they have supported age restriction legislation.
Researchers have also found that teens are four times more prone to trying conventional tobacco cigarettes if they have ever vaped. Big Tobacco knows this, which is why Altria, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer, invested billions of dollars in JUUL.
According to the latest government research, 27.5% of high school students and 11.5% of middle school students vape. In actual numbers, this means that the number of U.S. kids who vape has grown from 3.6 million last year to 5 million this year – an increase of nearly 30%.
The same government researchers have found no evidence that the youth vaping epidemic is slowing down, meaning kids are trying vapes for the first time and getting hooked in alarming numbers. Not surprisingly, JUUL continues to be the brand of choice among school students and young adults.
Vaping is harming our schools.
While JUUL and other vape makers continue to profit billions, U.S. schools and school systems are often stretched beyond their means to keep vapes off their campuses. First, there’s prevention. Installing vape sensors and cameras in order to deter students from vaping on campus is already a considerable expense.
At least 10 school districts in New Jersey have installed vaping detectors throughout their schools and one manufacturer has received about 100 requests from other school districts looking to do the same. As of August 2019, the anti-vaping devices were being used by school districts in all but four states.
One Ohio high school and middle school had 16 vape detectors installed, paid for with taxpayer money. At a cost of well over $1,000 per unit, the vape detectors can saddle school systems with unnecessary costs, taking badly needed funds away from basic educational materials.
In Alabama, one high school took the drastic step of removing the doors from all bathroom stalls, drawing the ire of parents who suggested the school hire bathroom monitors or implement other forms of surveillance. But all these ideas boil down to how much money schools have at their disposal. Too often, the answer is not enough.
Regardless of how well these systems work, however, they won’t solve the problem completely. Hundreds of learning hours are lost when students are suspended for using JUUL on school premises. As any administrator knows, attendance is correlated to budget. Suspending students can cost a district thousands of dollars, on top of what it already may have spent on vape detectors.
When suspended students return, schools must divert more resources to make up for the time they lost.
The costs to school districts don’t stop there. In addition to systems and processes designed to stop students from using JUUL, administrators have found they must also invest in treatment for those who have become addicted. This comes in the form of counselors and preventative programs designed to provide students with long-term support. With not only teenagers but also young children being exposed to, and in many cases becoming users of, JUUL, schools are beginning to understand the fight against addiction may be a very long one.
Nicotine is a drug, and when an addict needs a drug but lacks the means to get a “fix,” he or she may resort to theft and other crimes to support their habit.
One study conducted by a University of Texas at San Antonio criminal justice professor looked at a national sample of 8th and 10th graders. The study found that adolescents who vape are at a heightened risk of engaging in criminal activities such as violence and property theft. Even students who vaped cannabis (THC) were found to be significantly more likely to engage in violent and property crimes than students who used traditional forms of marijuana.
We can help you fight back.
If you’re a school administrator, you may be wondering what the point of a lawsuit is. If one or more of the campuses in your district is suffering from a JUUL problem, it is likely expensive. Prevention efforts, added security, additional resources to help students with addiction problems – it all adds up.
JUUL targeted children from the start. It knew what it was doing, and it did it anyway. A lawsuit can help your district regain some of the resources lost fighting JUUL’s corporate recklessness. For assistance and more information, contact the attorneys at Beasley Allen by filling out the form below. They can give you a free case evaluation and help you plan a path forward.