MONMOUTH COUNTY – The Freehold Regional High School District is now one of nearly 130 districts across the country to join a class-action lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul.
The lawsuit alleges that the company’s youth-oriented marketing and promotion as a safer alternative to cigarettes has led to widespread vaping for teens.
The school district states that Juul’s deceptive marketing to teens and young adults has created a public health crisis in its six schools. According to court documents, this has resulted in “significant and unexpected levels of time and resources on addressing the pervasiveness of youth e-cigarette use.”
In addition, the school district states that they’ve dedicated significant amounts of time and money training faculty and staff to educate students on the dangers of vaping through various programs.
“Students in schools have openly used e-cigarette devices in classrooms, causing disruption and diverting staff resources away from classroom instruction. Other students, addicted to nicotine, have demonstrated anxious, distracted and acting out behaviors, causing disruption and diverting staff resources away from classroom instruction and requiring additional time and attention for addicted students,” the complaint reads.
Freehold Regional High School District reported that they’ve seen a continuous increase in teen e-cigarette use. The FDA states that in 2020, approximately one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students identified as an e-cigarette user (or 3.6 million preteens and teens).
According to court documents, the school district alleges that “many students use their e-cigarette devices with high frequency throughout the day; with some kids taking a puff as often as every few minutes.”
“Unlike a combustible cigarette with its telltale emissions of smoke and distinct smell, the Juul device and Juul-alikes allow kids to vape undetected behind closed doors and even behind their teachers’ backs in the classroom,” court documents read.
The lawsuit also argues that Juul is not a product adults use to quit smoking, but instead is a device used mainly by teens. The school district’s complaint against Juul also states that the company’s attempt to market e-cigarettes as a “safe” and “healthier” alternative to smoking, subsequently normalized an “unhealthy” product.
The school district has run into many other problems regarding Juuls that include: the superintendent, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, teachers and security personnel losing substantial personnel hours to deal with e-cigarette issues; investing time and resources into monitoring bathrooms where students often use e-cigarettes; and remove toilets in bathrooms where students often flushed e-cigarettes and caused damage to the toilets, costing the district time, labor and replacement part costs.
In addition, the school district states that approximately 40 to 100 new security cameras have been installed per school around 2018, each security camera costing around $300 to purchase, install and maintain. About three vape detectors per school have also been installed, each vape detector costing about $1,500 for the same initial purchase, installation and upkeep.
With Freehold Regional High School District containing over 10,000 students, the e-cigarette epidemic may still continue to be on high alert if it’s not stopped.
A spokesperson from Juul stated the company has “reduced its product portfolio, halted television, print, and digital product advertising and submitted a Premarket Tobacco Product Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including comprehensive scientific evidence to support the harm reduction potential of its products and data-driven measures to address underage use.”
They’ve also said that their “customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers.”