Pinellas County, Florida, is joining the mounting number of school districts in the U.S. that are going after JUUL Labs to recover losses associated with the proliferation of vaping in public schools.
JUUL, the San Francisco-based vape maker, aggressively targeted minors and young adults with its product design and marketing campaigns. Now, less than three years after JUUL was formed, schools across the U.S. are forced to spend valuable resources to combat the youth vaping epidemic that has inundated their classrooms.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, enrollment in Pinellas County’s tobacco clinic for kids caught vaping or smoking at school shot up 738% in the last two years – about the same time frame that JUUL dumped millions of dollars into its youth-oriented marketing campaigns.
Pinellas County officials must still hold a formal vote to join a JUUL lawsuit, but all of them expressed support during a recent School Board meeting, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The county would be the fourth county in Florida suing JUUL, joining Palm Beach, Brevard, and Seminole Counties. About 100 school districts across the country are taking JUUL to court.
In 2018, about 20% of Pinellas County students ages 11 to 17 used vapes, Florida Department of Health figures show – about 4% higher than the state average.
In September 2019, a federal survey found that 27.5% of high school students vaped within the last 30 days – up from 20.8% in 2018 and 11.7% in 2017. More than six million middle and high school students combined currently vape.
While JUUL and other vape makers continue to profit billions from the epidemic of youth vaping, U.S. schools and school systems are often stretched beyond their means to keep the devices off their campuses.
Many schools are investing in vape detectors, installing additional surveillance systems, hiring additional patrol officers, counselors, and other staff to deal with student vaping, and paying teachers overtime as they devote more of their time and energy to developing anti-vaping curriculum and meeting with parents and community leaders to confront the problem.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. They also have filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts nationwide, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.