Western Washington school district sues JUUL over vaping epidemic

LA CONNER, Wash. -- A school district in Skagit County has joined a handful of other school districts across the country in filing a lawsuit against mega e-cigarette maker JUUL, claiming that the company targeted teenagers and played a major role in a vaping epidemic among high school students nationwide.

The La Conner School District is one of four school districts named in the suit, according to a report from The Oregonian. The other three are in Kansas, New York and Missouri.

La Conner district officials said in a prepared statement that they believe JUUL targeted students in "an illegal manner."

Our research shows us that even liquids claiming to be "nicotine free" more often than not contain nicotine. As a result, our youth are becoming addicted to nicotine and other substances at an alarming rate. Since these products are unregulated, it's impossible to know what exactly is being ingested.

We are tired of companies targeting our youth. We are weary of predatory marketing tactics that seek to steal health and money from our most vulnerable citizens all in the name of a profit. And we are exhausted from shifting limited resources away from the classroom and into unfunded supports and interventions to help our children recover from harm we didn't cause. We will keep helping them, of course, but imagine a school system free from predatory products like those provided by Juul. 

La Conner chooses to be part of this lawsuit in the name of the health, safety, and education our children deserve. 

JUUL has not commented on the lawsuit yet, though in the past the company has defended itself by saying that its products are designed to help adult smokers quit cigarettes.

In July, a congressional committee investigation found that JUUL “deployed a sophisticated program to enter schools and convey its messaging directly to teenage children."

In one case, Juul paid $134,000 to sponsor a five-week “holistic health education” summer camp in Baltimore that “recruited from grades 3 through 12.”

The company shut down all print, broadcast and digital advertising in late September, also replacing its CEO with a senior executive form the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.

Here at home, the Washington state Board of Health will vote today on whether to ban flavored vaping products statewide in response to a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related illnesses. Officials are now saying that most of the illnesses -- and 18 deaths -- are from vaping THC products, but investigators still have not identified a cause for the severe lung illness that has sicked more than 1,000 people.

Parents, teachers and health advocates have increasingly called for a crackdown on flavors, arguing that they are overwhelmingly to blame for the explosion in underage vaping by U.S. teens, particularly with JUUL devices that are small and discreet.

The state Department of Health has released a free app to help teens and adults quit vaping.