The Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) is suing Juul, joining hundreds of other California schools in accusing the popular e-cigarette maker of creating ‘false and deceptive statements’ that have led to a ‘youth nicotine epidemic of historic proportions.’
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday, names Juul, as well as tobacco company Phillip Morris and its parent company Altria as defendants.
Palm Springs Unified School District, which has a population of 21,7075 students and 1,125 staff members, is demanding unspecified compensation for damages related to business expenses that involve the confiscation of e-cigarettes in schools.
Attorneys for the district also said that member schools have lost a great deal of instruction time and that a drop in school enrollment related to health and behavioral issues stemmed from vaping has become a trend.
‘Students in Plaintiff’s schools have openly charged e-cigarette devices in classrooms, causing disruption and diverting staff resources away from classroom instruction,’ reads the lawsuit.
‘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,’ it added.
Students using e-cigarettes have led the Palm Springs Unified School District to sue Juul, as well as tobacco company Phillip Morris and its parent company Altria as defendants
The Palm Springs Unified School District is the latest school system in California to sue Juul, a popular e-cigarette maker in the U.S., as more than 100 hundreds school districts in the state have also sued the company
The legal age to buy vaping devices in California is 21. However, the prevalence of Juuls and other e-cigarettes have forced the school district ‘to close some bathrooms and Plaintiff’s staff has had to devote staff time and resources to monitoring the bathrooms, including regularly walking through them both during class and between classes,’ according to the lawsuit.
‘Because many students who do not engage in e-cigarette activities do not wish to use the school restrooms, even to wash their hands, Plaintiff has had to go so far as to rent multiple portable hand-washing stations that have been placed outside of restrooms in an effort to maintain student hygiene and prevent the spread of disease,’ the complaint further states.
The district’s complaint is now the latest lawsuit that Juul has to deal with after statewide and nationwide class-action lawsuits were filed against the e-cigarette giant and 120 other co-defendants since 2019. However, Palm Spring Unified has filed its complaint separately from other districts.
More than 100 school districts across California are suing Juul for misconduct and for negatively affecting the lives of their students, according to William Shinoff, an attorney representing an estimated 700 other school districts across the country with similar accusations against the e-cigarette company.
‘We believe it’s a multi-multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Juul and others,’ James Frantz, who also is representing PSUSD from the same firm – Frantz Law Group – told The Desert Sun.
The school district has confirmed the lawsuit’s filing to DailyMail.com but declined to comment due to the complaint’s ongoing status. Juul did not respond to request for comment.
Juul, the maker of the popular e-cigarette brand that has recently come under fire from health officials over its popularity with young adults, has not only been sued by school districts from all around the country, but also by several states, including California and North Carolina
The San Francisco Unified School District, one of the largest in the state, set a precedent by suing Juul in 2019 and a verdict could be made as early as November.
Juul, which once made $2 billion in revenue in 2018, had its headquarters in San Francisco before relocating to Washington D.C. in 2020. Later that same year, the company cut its workforce by about 40 percent and halted global expansion. This year, Juul has an estimated number of 1,492 employees and serves Canada, Russia and South Korea amongst others in Southeast Asia and in Europe.
The ruling in regards to the San Francisco Unified School District’s case could set a precedent and be ‘instructive for all the school districts as to what could happen,’ according to Frantz and Shinoff.
Complaints made by Palm Springs Unified echo similar ones raised by other schools districts across the country, stating that many employees and students have been ‘hit hard by the youth e-cigarette epidemic.’
One of the schools districts biggest concern is the doubling number of senior students that have reportedly consumed nicotine between 2017 and 2018.
In 2018, one of Juul’s most successful years thanks to a $2 billion made in profits, more than one in four high school students across the U.S. had reported consuming a tobacco product.
‘Consistent with this national trend, youth e-cigarette consumption rates in Palm Springs Unified School District continue to climb,’ the lawsuit states. ”Defendants’ conduct has created a public health crisis in Plaintiff’s schools and Plaintiff spent significant and unexpected levels of time and resources on addressing the pervasiveness of youth e-cigarette use.’
The school district also put forward a proposal to make Juul pay for vape detectors’ installments, worth $5,000, in every single classroom in its high schools and middle schools. Funding for educational campaigns on the harmful effects of nicotine and additional resources to ban the use of e-cigarettes on school campuses have also been stated in the lawsuit, according to Palm Springs Unified’s attorneys.
They have also alleged that the use of e-cigarette products is detrimental to the local environment, creating a growing hazardous waste problem at schools enrolled in the district’s system.
‘Defendants’ e-cigarette products contain chemicals that can be toxic or fatal if ingested in their concentrated forms, as well as lithium-ion batteries, which cannot be safely disposed of in the normal stream of trash,’ the complaint reads.
‘The e-cigarette epidemic has led to significant levels of hazardous waste from these e-cigarette products throughout Plaintiff’s schools, either from youth improperly disposing of them by littering or throwing them in the trash or toilets, or because teachers and school staff must confiscate and store them,’ the lawsuit adds.
School districts are not the only public establishments to take action against Juul. Several states, including California and North Carolina have also sued the company, with the latter being the first state to successfully hold Juul accountable by winning a $40 million settlement.