In addition to many individual lawsuits filed by families affected by the vaping epidemic that is sweeping the nation, the makers of JUUL e-cigarettes also face a growing number of lawsuits filed by entire school districts seeking compensation for damages incurred in the course of battling teen e-cigarette use in the United States. Student use of e-cigarettes has increased exponentially in recent years; from 2017-2018, current e-cigarette use increased by nearly 78% among high school students and nearly 49% among middle school students and the numbers continue to trend in an upward direction. The latest in a wave of youth nicotine addiction lawsuits against the makers of JUUL e-cigarettes was filed last week by the Jefferson County Public School District in Mississippi, on behalf of all school systems in the state that have spent considerable money and resources addressing student use of JUUL e-cigarette products.
JUUL e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat up liquid nicotine to produce a vapor or aerosol that users then inhale. Since its introduction in 2015, JUUL has become the most popular vaping product for use among teens and youth, following years of aggressive marketing targeting minors and prior non-smokers. JUUL devices are designed to look like USB drives, which makes them easy to conceal in school and at home and the e-liquid pods come in a variety of candy-like flavors meant to appeal to children. This has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers picking up vaping, developing an addiction to the high levels of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes and then eventually moving on to traditional combustible cigarettes. In fact, according to a study published last year, adolescents who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
This latest JUUL class action lawsuit names JUUL Labs, Philip Morris and Altria Group as defendants, alleging that the strategy used to market JUUL devices was designed to appeal to teens and create a whole new generation of nicotine-addicted consumers. According to a recent memorandum from the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, JUUL Labs used sophisticated marketing tactics to enter schools, summer camps and out-of-school programs and deliver its message directly to high school students, middle school students and children as young as eight years old. As a result of this deceptive marketing strategy, JUUL use has increased dramatically among school-age youth and teens and school districts have been forced to allocate significant resources in an effort to combat the growing problem.
“In addition to severe health consequences, widespread ‘JUULing’ has placed severe burdens on society and schools in particular,” says the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. “It is not an overstatement to say that JUUL has changed the educational experience of students across the nation.” The lawsuit also states that “Such rampant JUUL use has effectively added another category to teachers’ and school administrators’ job description; many now receive special training to respond to the various problems that JUUL use presents, both in and out of the classroom. Across the United States, schools have had to divert resources and administrators have had to go to extreme lengths to respond to the ever-growing number of students using JUULs on school grounds.”
Recent data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that teen e-cigarette use in the United States has reached epidemic status and JUUL Labs is accused of contributing to the growing nicotine addiction problem among U.S. teens and youth. In September, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL Labs, accusing the company of telling children that its JUUL devices were “much safer” than cigarettes, which has not been proven. On the contrary, thousands of reports of serious lung illnesses, including at least 48 deaths, have been reported in connection with the use of certain e-cigarette devices in recent months and side effects of vaping have also been tied to nearly 130 reports of seizures over the past decade.
As JUUL addiction attorneys continue to review and file claims on behalf of e-cigarette users and affected families across the country, the litigation is expected to continue to grow and will likely amount to tens of thousands of product liability lawsuits when all is said and done. If you or someone you know has developed a nicotine addiction as a result of vaping with JUUL e-cigarettes, or if you have been diagnosed with a respiratory illness you believe to be related to the use of e-cigarettes, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. With a knowledgeable e-cigarette injury lawyer on your side, you can ensure that you understand your legal options and determine whether you are eligible for compensation as a result of your injuries and losses.