The North Hills School District near Pittsburgh became the 10th school district in the Western District of Pennsylvania to take legal action to hold vape giant JUUL accountable for the vaping epidemic in its schools. The nine previous cases were recently transferred to the federal court in the Northern District of California.
The school districts are among hundreds across the country who say the increase in youth vaping has put a strain on staff and resources. Schools have had to use staff to police bathrooms to stop teens from vaping and provide resources for teens addicted to nicotine. Now JUUL and other major vape companies should pay for the mess they created, their lawsuits claim.
The schools allege that JUUL launched an aggressive marketing campaign that targeted teens with candy- and fruit-flavored e-liquids, sleek vape devices resembling flash drives that could be concealed in a hand or pocket, and splashy advertising campaigns. They also used social media influencers popular with teens to promote their vapes.
“In fact, many of JUUL’s ads are nearly identical to old cigarette ads that were designed to get teens to smoke. Like its Big Tobacco predecessors, the focus of JUUL’s initial marketing was on colorful ad campaigns using eye-catching designs and youth-oriented imagery with themes of being cool, carefree, stylish, attractive, sexy, and popular — unusual themes and images if one’s objective is to promote an adult’s only smoking cessation device,” North Hills’ complaint said. “The JUUL device even has features reminiscent of youth-oriented tech culture and gaming, like ‘secret’ features users can unlock, such as making the indicator light flash rainbow colors in ‘party mode.’”
Between 2011 and 2015, when JUUL was first introduced, vaping among middle-and high-school students jumped 900%. Once established, between 2017 and 2018, vaping increased among high schoolers by 78%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
JUUL is the primary target of most of the school districts’ lawsuits, including North Hills. “JUUL’s dominance of the e-cigarette market has been so rapid, and so complete, that the act of vaping is now referred to as ‘JUULing,’” the school district’s complaint stated.
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. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.