The Ava R-1 School District has joined the list of school districts suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs, Inc.
The rural southwest Missouri school district filed an 80-page lawsuit Oct. 31 in federal court against Juul, claiming the company marketed its products to teenagers and got a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.
Ava schools is among those arguing that school districts have felt the brunt of Juul’s misconduct since educators have been forced to spend time and resources on trying to prevent “illegal and unhealthy” use of Juul products by underage students.
“Juul use at school creates enormous distractions for students and detracts from educators’ limited time and resources to educate their student population generally,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also claims Juul misrepresented the amount of nicotine in its products, creating a misleading impression that it’s e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking.
Spurred by Juul, the lawsuit says there was a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among American high-schoolers from 2017 to 2018.
Ava Superintendent Jason Dial said e-cigarette use among his students has continued to go up this year compared to last school year.
Dial said Ava schools has rolled out a comprehensive prevention plan that includes working with the Missouri Ozarks Community Health to educate students and parents about e-cigarettes.
“We hope to see that number drop as we educate more students about the harmful affects of vaping,” Dial said.
Dial said Ava is also looking into the possibility of adding vape detectors into the high school restrooms, but he said that could cost up to $20,000.
Ava is just one of many school districts across the country that have filed similar lawsuits this year against Juul — including St. Charles, MO. and Olathe, Kan.
Amid scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration, Juul Labs rolled out plans last year to make its products — which it bills as smoking cessation devices — less appealing to young people, like stopping sales of flavored pods in retail stores.
The vaping industry faced additional criticism this year when more than 2,000 people suffered lung injuries from vaping. Some of those injuries turned fatal.
In Ava, Dial said he does not see the school district’s lawsuit as a way to make money. Instead, he hopes his district’s lawsuit and others will lead to Juul changing the way it promotes its products.
“It’s not a financial windfall for us at all,” Dial said. “We are simply looking to change practice.”
Online court records indicate Juul Labs has been granted an extension of time to respond to the Ava school district’s lawsuit.
An email sent Monday afternoon to the public relations team at Juul Labs was not immediately returned.
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