A growing number of school districts across the country are joining a federal lawsuit against vaping company JUUL Labs.
The lawsuit claims the company marketed to youth which has led to a problem of students vaping in the classroom.
A spokeswoman for Oklahoma City Public Schools said the district has yet to dive into the issue just yet.
In a unanimous vote Monday night, Shawnee Public School leaders became the first district in Oklahoma to vote in favor of filing a lawsuit against JUUL Labs.
“Certainly, it was appealing from the standpoint there was no cost for any of us to do that,” said Dr. April Grace, Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent. “It is an issue that is distracting, it takes time away from the other work and it is really also looking out for the health and wellbeing of our students and looking for that overall safety.”
A California based law firm, Frantz Law Group, is representing the Shawnee School District. Attorney William Shinoff said this could be a lawsuit as big as the opioid lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson.
“I’m hearing they’re catching kids as young as third grade with the product, It is becoming a daily issue that they are dealing with,” said Shinoff.
The Frantz Law Group has more than 90 districts on board, nationwide. By the time all is said and done, Shinoff said, restitution could reach an access of a billion dollars.
“This is a problem everywhere and it’s based on the fact that this company directly marketed to the youth,” said Shinoff. “Were now seeing the effects of the fact that by their marketing practices, we now have a bunch of children that are addicted to their product.”
JUUL Labs released the following statement to News 9 regarding the lawsuit.
“We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorney generals, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process in the U.S., we are preparing comprehensive and scientifically rigorous Premarket Tobacco Product Applications, stopped the sale of flavored pods other than Tobacco and Menthol in November of last year, halted our television, print and digital product advertising and support the Administration’s final flavor policy. Our customer base is the world’s one billion adult smokers.“
Some local districts like Thomas-Faye-Custer, in Custer County, have purchased vape detectors at around $1,000 apiece.
“Our job is to keep young people safe and healthy to the best of our ability,” said Grace. “This just says that we are willing to stand up to that and I hope other districts would join in.”
Shinoff said the Frantz Law Group intends to file Shawnee’s lawsuit in federal court next month with the hopes of this going to trial by summer of 2021.