School Districts Sue Juul Over Teen Addiction

Three school districts have filed lawsuits against Juul Labs, the e-cigarette manufacturer, over the current epidemic of teenage vaping. The school systems in St. Charles, Mo., Olathe, Kan., and on Long Island have accused Juul of gross negligence and public nuisance for marketing its products to youths, endangering students, and forcing educators to divert time and money to fight nicotine addiction among teenagers.

The lawsuits were filed by Olathe Public Schools, which serves 30,000 students in a suburb of Kansas City; the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles, which has about 18,000 students; and the Three Village Central School District in New York State, which has 6,222 students. They say the schools are left to shoulder the costs of stopping students from vaping, disciplining them when they break school rules, and providing support services when they become addicted.

A lawyer for one of the cases says schools have had to install sensors in bathrooms, remove bathroom doors, ban flash drives, hire more staff, and pay for programs that help students deal with nicotine addiction. The suits did not specify the amount of damages the districts were seeking. Similar suits are expected in the coming weeks.

E-cigarettes are currently the most used nicotine product among U.S. teens. Juul, in which tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) owns a 35 percent stake, dominates the e-cigarette market with about 70 percent market share.

Juul devices, which look like thumb drives, have become wildly popular with American teenagers, even though Juul has denied ever marketing to children or steering its products toward teenagers. Juul claims that its products “has always been only intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world” and that it does not “want any non-nicotine users to try our products.”