The Los Angeles Unified School District Tuesday announced the filing of a proposed class-action lawsuit against electronic-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, accusing the company of contributing to a vaping epidemic among students that has drained district resources and threatened students’ health.
“We are here to join others in the cause to stop this epidemic,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. “The money we are spending to deal with the trauma vaping is bringing into our schools is money not spent on instruction. By filing this lawsuit today, we are taking a step toward ensuring those responsible will pay the price to repair the harm done to our students, our schools and the communities we serve.”
A request for comment from JUUL Labs was not immediate returned.
The lawsuit, filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court, contends that vaping among LAUSD students has increased tenfold since 2013. It alleges that vaping has affected student learning, contributed to a rise in students absences, which cost the district money in the form of state attendance-based funding.
District officials also claim they have been forced to spend scarce financial resources on anti-vaping educational campaigns and treatment, an on the creation of a administrative task force aimed at enforcing vaping restrictions and disposing of vaping paraphernalia found on campuses.
The suit also notes that the spike in vaping has led to maintenance issues on campuses, with some bathrooms, which students have dubbed “JUUL rooms,” becoming so damaged by the practice that they were rendered unusable.
“JUUL designed its device and used deceptive marketing to entice and sustain an entire generation of underage consumers into nicotine addiction,” attorney Brian Panish, who represents the LAUSD, said. “We intend to hold JUUL accountable for its role in the vaping crisis that has affected our youth, our schools and families across the country who are combating the real and life-threatening consequences of JUUL’s irresponsible practices.”
Vaping-related lung illnesses and some deaths have been reported across the country in recent weeks, prompting health officials to urge consumers to immediately halt the practice. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed one vaping-related death in the county, along with 27 cases of vaping-associated lung injuries. The agency noted that two-thirds of the local cases involve people aged 25 or younger.