The Beasley Allen Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Southampton Union Free School District against vaping manufacturer JUUL Labs. It is one of many school districts nationwide forced to deal with a widespread vaping epidemic it said is the result of deceptive marketing by companies like JUUL targeting youth and teens to create the next generation of nicotine addicts. The school district is represented by Beasley Allen’s Andy Birchfield, head of the firm’s Mass Torts Section, and Joseph VanZandt, along with Thomas Cartmell, Jonathan Kieffer and Tyler Hudson of Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP, Steven Gacovino of Gacovino, Lake and Associates, P.C., and Kirk Goza and Brad Honnold of Goza & Honnold LLC.
“Beasley Allen is honored to represent Southampton School District in New York and dozens of other school districts around the country in their fight to combat the vaping epidemic,” Birchfield said. “Because JUUL has exposed a new generation of children to record levels of nicotine addiction, schools are being uniquely impacted and have been forced to incur a multitude of costs to address this problem and are also faced with the challenge of how to remedy and abate the problem. We’re honored to fight on behalf of courageous schools and administrators to remedy this problem and hold JUUL accountable.”
Beasley Allen filed lawsuits on behalf of other school districts last fall. Similarly, Southampton is also seeking to protect its students and hold the vaping manufacturing giant accountable for diverting resources – time and public funding – from education. Specifically, Southampton wants JUUL to pay for its Teen Intervene program, an in-school vaping intervention program, among other damages. The program provides therapy sessions conducted by in-school addiction specialists to help students who became addicted to the nicotine contained in the products JUUL pedaled to the kids on social media. Dr. Brian Zahn, Principal of Southampton High School, has been a leader in fighting the vaping epidemic in his school and system. He has testified before Congress on this issue, and was recently featured on Good Morning America to share information about the vaping intervention program.
In his statement before Congress, Dr. Zahn called schools a “battlefield” in the fight to free young people from nicotine addiction. He told lawmakers, “I have seen more courage displayed from our young people here at the table, and in my school, than we have from our elected officials. It is time that everyone, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Conservatives, Moderates, and Liberals join us in this fight to save the brains, the lungs and the future of generations of young people. We stand with you to help end the JUUL epidemic.”
Southampton is located on Long Island in Suffolk County, New York. The plaintiff school district explains that in addition to deceptive marketing geared toward the younger generations and unleashed on social media, JUUL also specifically preyed on school districts. Company representatives used marketing events disguised as “educational” anti-vaping presentations to introduce even more children and youth to its dangerous vaping products. The lawsuit alleges that this has put schools at the “epicenter of the youth vaping epidemic.” Further, the sudden rise in youth vaping is an epidemic that happened so unexpectedly it left school districts like the plaintiff scrambling to combat the epidemic on a number of different fronts as little or no research exists about the effectiveness of prevention and cessation methods. This diverts even more resources from its primary educational purpose.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter last September outlining JUUL’s deceptive marketing and the steps it took to target schools. The company and its vaping products are also the subject of other government investigations and regulatory actions. The FDA Acting Commissioner said the company “ignored the law” when he described how company representatives made misleading statements about the products’ safety in schools across the country.
Although JUUL wasn’t alone in creating the epidemic, it holds 75% of the vaping market. JUUL has experienced extraordinary financial success at the expense of America’s youth, parents and educators. In 2017 alone, JUUL’s revenues grew by 700% to $200 million dollars, hitting the $1 billion mark the following year. Entrepreneurial endeavors should be applauded but not at the expense of children’s health or by straining parents’ and educators’ own financial resources to deal with the fallout of the epidemic.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California as part of the JUUL multidistrict litigation case number 19-md-02913-WHO.