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A California school district has filed a lawsuit against the makers of JUUL e-cigarettes, alleging that the manufacturers intentionally engaged in a marketing strategy which resulted in widespread vaping nicotine addiction among students, leaving schools to deal with the consequences.
The South San Francisco Unified School District filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on April 20, pursuing damages from JUUL Labs, Inc. for costs incurred by schools to deal with the teen vaping epidemic that has surfaced in recent years.
More than 9,300 students from northern San Mateo County are included in the school district, which indicates the use of JUUL pods by students has interfered with the district’s ability to achieve its educational goals and to ensure their safety. As a result, the district needs to expend significant resources to address JUUL nicotine addiction problems among the student population.
“Defendants failed to warn adequately in their advertising or anywhere on the product that the product was not safe for minors and, instead, posed serious immediate and long-term health risks, and should not be used or consumed by them. Rather, Defendants intentionally marketed their products to minors in youth-friendly colors and flavors,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants also designed their products to be more palatable to youth and nonsmokers by making JUUL e-cigarettes easier to inhale while increasing the level of nicotine that is absorbed by users, making them even more addictive.”
South San Francisco joins a growing number of other school districts which have filed lawsuits in recent months, which indicate the JUULing trend was predictable, avoidable, likely intentional, and claiming the problem has cost schools nationwide as they battle to counsel addicted youths, put measures in control to fight the spread of vaping among their students, and deal with the fallout.
JUUL is a popular e-cigarette, which was just introduced in 2015, but has already become the most widely used vaping product among teens, following years of aggressive marketing directed to minors and prior non-smokers. The addictive JUUL pods are designed to look like USB drives, allowing students to hide their vaping habit from teachers, parents and other adults.
The company recruited thousands of on-line, social media “influencers” to market JUULing toward teens, according to the complaint, which indicates the resulting rampant use of JUUL among teenagers has forced school districts to assign significant resources to combat the problem.
Facing mounting pressure and even criminal investigations, JUUL has ended advertising in the U.S. and removed nearly all of its flavored products from the market.
As a growing number of product liability and class action complaints continued to be filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, a panel of federal judges decided to consolidate all JUUL nicotine addiction lawsuits before 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.