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According to allegations raised in lawsuit filed by an Iowa school district, the manufacturers of JUUL e-cigarettes have engaged in an illegal marketing campaign that targeted minors, causing widespread teen vaping addiction which has led to disruption and expenses for schools nationwide.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Decorah Community School District in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on October 9, joining a number of similar claims being presented nationwide against JUUL Labs, Altria Group, Philip Morris USA and Nu Mark LLC.
The lawsuits allege JUUL marketing targeted children, leading to new addiction and interventions in schools nationwide to address widespread addiction problems among students.
Electronic cigarettes were initially introduced as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, with the introduction of JUUL vape pods and other flavored e-cigarettes in recent years, which were aggressively advertised through social marketing and other medium that targeted students and prior non-smokers, there is now a growing epidemic of teen e-cigarette addiction in the United States.
JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing nicotine addiction problems, by introducing vaping pods that were intentionally designed to look like a USB thumb drives, as part of an effort to appeal to youth.
“In addition to severe health consequences, widespread ‘JUULing’ has placed severe burdens on society and schools in particular,” the school district’s lawsuit states. “It is not an overstatement to say that JUUL has changed the educational experience of students across the nation.”
The lawsuit notes that school bathrooms are now referred to as “the JUUL room” and students in schools nationwide have coined the term “nic sick” to refer to flu-like symptoms which can occur due to JUUL overuse among minor-age students.
“Such rampant JUUL use has effectively added another category to teachers’ and school administrators’ job descriptions; many now receive special training to respond to the various problems that JUUL use presents, both in and out of the classroom,” the lawsuit notes. “A national survey of middle schools and high schools found that 43.3% of schools have had to implement not only an ecigarette policy but a JUUL-specific policy.”
In September 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence the company told school-aged children its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.
Nationally, among high school students, e-cigarette use increased 10-fold, from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. While many states regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, e-cigarettes have been easily available to youth via the internet for several years.
A growing number of JUUL lawsuits and class action claims have been filed nationwide by not just schools, but by parents, teens who have since become adults, and a number of states’ attorneys general.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints brought throughout the federal court system, the JUUL litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where JUUL Labs, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters are located.
As JUUL addiction lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months, the litigation is expected to continue to grow, and is likely to encompass tens of thousands of complaints.