Or­ange schools sue JUUL over teen va­p­ing

Mem­bers say elec­tronic cig­a­rettes pose health risks to stu­dents

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Les­lie Postal

The Or­ange County School Board will sue JUUL, join­ing other school dis­tricts na­tion­wide in an ef­fort to hold the man­u­fac­turer of the elec­tronic cig­a­rette pop­u­lar with teenagers re­spon­si­ble for the rise of va­p­ing prob­lems on cam­puses.

Other school boards in Florida, in­clud­ing those in Semi­nole, Brevard and Palm Beach coun­ties, have voted to do the same, as have school dis­tricts from Washington to Kentucky to New York.

Though each district will file its own law­suit in fed­eral court, many of the cases are likely to be con­sol­i­dated, at least ini­tially, in a Cal­i­for­nia court, ac­cord­ing to an at­tor­ney in­volved in the le­gal ac­tions.

Or­ange school board mem­bers, like their coun­ter­parts in other dis­tricts, said va­p­ing posed sig­nif­i­cant health risks to stu­dents and also cre­ated dis­ci­pline prob­lems on cam­pus, as the JUUL car­tridges — con­tain­ing as much ni­co­tine as 20 tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes — look like USB flash drives so are easy to hide.

“It is very hard to mon­i­tor, and we have no idea the full health ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this,” board mem­ber Pam Gould said Tues­day night be­fore the school board voted to sue JUUL.

JUUL prod­ucts, launched in 2015 in child-friendly fla­vors like mint and mango, quickly grew pop­u­lar among mid­dle and high school stu­dents, lead­ing to a “pub­lic health epi­demic” as ado­les­cent brains are par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age from ni­co­tine, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease

Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The pop­u­lar­ity of JUUL prod­ucts un­did the progress the coun­try made in curb­ing tra­di­tional cig­a­rette use among teenagers, the agency said.

Or­ange School Board Chair Teresa Ja­cobs called that “ou­tra­geous” and “de­spi­ca­ble” and said she wanted to end the com­pany’s “preda­tory prac­tice on our stu­dents.”

Pos­sess­ing or us­ing e-cig­a­rettes is a vi­o­la­tion of school con­duct codes, so stu­dent va­p­ing has be­come a dis­ci­pline is­sue on many cam­puses, ad­min­is­tra­tors have said.

But the state’s stu­dent dis­ci­pline sys­tem, which lo­cal dis­tricts use to re­port in­ci­dents, lumps va­p­ing with other to­bacco in­frac­tions, mak­ing it hard to know ex­actly how many va­p­ing in­ci­dents there are on cam­puses.

Or­ange ad­min­is­tra­tors said Tues­day that a pre­lim­i­nary at­tempt to pull va­p­ing data for their schools showed there had been a steep in­crease in stu­dents caught with e-cig­a­rettes since the 2015-16 school year.

Though the num­bers pre­sented may not cap­ture all va­p­ing in­ci­dents, they showed that e-cig­a­rettes now dom­i­nate to­bacco in­frac­tions and have more than tripled in three years.

In the 2015-16 school year, for ex­am­ple, there were 139 to­bacco in­ci­dents, and 11 of them were for va­p­ing, the data showed.

In the 2018-19 school year, there were 479 in­ci­dents and 357, or 75% of them, were for va­p­ing.

Be­cause of the va­p­ing prob­lem, at the start of the school year the district pro­duced a video shown to Or­ange stu­dents that show­cased how va­p­ing on cam­pus could get them in trou­ble.

The eight-mem­ber board voted unan­i­mously to file the law­suit, which will be pur­sued with­out cost to the school district.

The at­tor­neys, in­clud­ing a lo­cal firm that helped Florida win its land­mark set­tle­ment against to­bacco com­pa­nies in the late 1990s, will earn fees only only if the law­suits are suc­cess­ful and win money for the school dis­tricts.

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