San Diego schools are suing vaping company Juul Labs, alleging it hooked teenage students on e-cigarettes and that the habit harmed their educations.
The San Diego Unified School District's complaint, filed this week in San Diego Superior Court, claims the popularity of vaping led to "impeding learning" in schools throughout the district. The suit also alleges that teen use of Juul's products caused more student absences and resulted in funds that otherwise would've been used for education going toward school-funded prevention and treatment campaigns for illnesses related to e-cigarettes.
"It is not an overstatement to say that Juul has changed the educational experience of students across California," the suit claims.
Other school districts in California, as well has several in other states, have also sued Juul. Andhave filed suit against the company for allegedly targeting youth, leading to vaping-related illnesses and even deaths.
The San Diego school district, which serves more than 120,000 students, is seeking damages for the expenses the district incurred through various enforcement actions. Those include creating education programs about the health risks of vaping, installing vape detectors in schools and assigning teachers to restroom surveillance.
"This lawsuit affirms San Diego Unified's commitment to the health and safety of its students and sends a message to Juul that the district will not tolerate the risks brought upon its students or the financial burden associated with admonishing a vaping epidemic from its campuses," attorney Rahul Ravipudi, a partner at Panish Shea & Boyle, which is representing the San Diego school district, said on the law firm's website.
Juul, the largest e-cigarette manufacturer and partly owned by tobacco giant Altria, controls more than 70% of the vape market. Critics accuse the company of targeting school-age children with marketing and advertising tactics similar to those once used by Big Tobacco.
"In fact, many of Juul's ads are nearly identical to old cigarette ads that were designed to get teens to smoke," the lawsuit states.
Juul maintains that it does not market its product to teens and that its core market consists of adult smokers. It also markets e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking regular tobacco cigarettes.
"Over the past several years, youth vaping in America has become a serious and urgent problem, and at Juul labs, we have no higher priority than combating youth use," Juul said in a blog post on its website.
"Youth use of vapor products is detrimental to our mission, and to our business. Our target market is the one billion adult smokers globally, more than 70 percent of whom want to quit using combustible cigarettes."