Schools Should Join Juul Lawsuit to Recover Expenses – Indianapolis Business Journal
Juul Labs, maker of the leading vaping device, Juul, is doing quite well. So much so that the “Big Tobacco” company, Altria, bought a 35% stake ($12.8 billion) in Juul, which holds 75% of the electronic cigarette market.
The tobacco industry understands that vaping is the future of nicotine addiction. Amid huge reductions in youth cigarette smoking, vaping is skyrocketing among young people. Recent studies report regular vaping among high school students ranging from 21% to 43%.
Juul is largely responsible for creating this situation. His device is appealing to young people – small, sleek, looks like a USB flash drive and is easy to hide, especially at school. Juul launched a massive social media campaign targeting young people using the strategies developed by the tobacco industry, including attractive models, celebrities and other “influencers”, projecting the image of Juul as being at fashionable and stylish. Juul showcased “launch parties” and giveaways on social media and worked to normalize youth vaping.
The partnership between Juul, with its scientific vaping expertise, and Altria, with its tobacco marketing playbook, has been a huge success. Juul uses new, highly addictive nicotine salts, sweet flavors and organic acids to reduce harshness. The company deliberately and methodically rolled out a multi-faceted plan to get a generation of teens addicted to nicotine.
According to the United States House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee, Juul entered schools, camps, and after-school events through clandestine programming aimed at promoting the use of Juul. Juul is a bad actor and also faces scrutiny from the United States Food and Drug Administration for marketing to minors.
Now, school districts across the country, faced with massive e-cigarette use by students, are demanding accountability for Juul’s wrongdoings by filing suit primarily under the Public Nuisance Act that has been used with success against opioid pharmaceutical companies. The law states that manufacturers can be held liable for harm caused to society by their products and marketing practices. The mass tort litigation was established through Federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) established in federal court in San Francisco and through the Coordinated Proceedings Counsel in Los Angeles State Court .
More than 857 school districts in 41 states have filed suit for past and future financial losses and other damages caused by Juul’s youth marketing practices. The damages relate to a myriad of actions that schools must take to combat vaping and address the problems caused by vaping. These include the costs of installing vaping detectors (tens of thousands of dollars), monitoring bathrooms and stairs, test kits to determine the contents of confiscated vaping devices, educational assemblies on vaping and other prevention initiatives, student counseling, intervention for disruptive behavior issues, tutoring for suspended students, addressing student health issues, and disrupting educational plans. The lawsuits will also include punitive damages for wrongful conduct and an injunction for Juul-funded prevention and treatment programs for nicotine addiction.
Only about 73 of Indiana’s more than 300 school districts have joined the MDL. Why didn’t school districts like the townships of Perry, Pike, Lawrence and Warren (in Indianapolis), Fishers, Noblesville, Lafayette and West Lafayette, Terre Haute, Gary, Hobart, Hammond and Munster join us? The submission process is simple and free of charge. With budget challenges, this could be a much-needed cash injection for school districts.
Oh, by the way, the Indiana General Assembly just lowered taxation on “closed” vaping devices like Juul. Perfect.•
Feldman is a family physician, author, lecturer, and former commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health for Governor Frank O’Bannon. Send your comments to [email protected]
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