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Student JUUL Vaping Problems Result in Lawsuit Filed By San Diego Schools

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The makers of JUUL face a lawsuit brought by the San Diego school system, which claims the company intentionally designed and marketed its e-cigarette products to foster teen nicotine addictions that have plagued schools with student vaping problems.

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) filed a complaint (PDF) against JUUL Labs, Inc. and PAX Labs on January 7, in the California Superior Court in San Diego.

About 135,000 students are enrolled in the school district, which accuses the popular JUUP vaping devices of creating a public nuisance, due to negligence and failure to warn about the levels of addictive nicotine delivered by the electronic device.

The lawsuit warns that, nationwide, JUUL’s products are reversing years of progress towards eliminating tobacco use among youths, with more than 20% of high schoolers nationwide using e-cigarettes in 2018. The San Diego schools note that in the last two years the percentage of its own students who vaped increased by more than 300%.

It joins a growing number of other school districts who have filed lawsuits against JUUL, indicating that the JUULing trend was predictable, avoidable, likely intentional, and 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 that 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.

“JUUL now insists it never marketed to young people. This assertion is patently false,” the lawsuit states. “JUUL has compelled a generation of youth, who were never cigarette smokers, into nicotine addiction and put them at risk for severe lung injury and/or other health harms resulting from aerosol inhalation.”

JUUL Teen Epidemic

Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing teen nicotine addiction problems in the United States.

In addition to designing JUUL to look like a USB thumb drive, the manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL pods in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers starting to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.

A recent study found that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Another study warns that vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.

In September 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence it told school-aged children that its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven.

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 in October to consolidate all JUUL nicotine addiction lawsuits before one judge in the federal court system, including both individual product liability claims filed by families, as well as complaints brought on behalf of school districts and other organizations.

JUUL cases pending throughout the federal court system will all be consolidated 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, and where five of the earliest complaints were filed.

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.

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