Ceres Unified School District is suing JUUL, alleging the company has created an e-cigarette epidemic and resurgence in youth nicotine addiction that’s disrupted the education and learning environment in Ceres.
“Vaping is a big issue for teenagers today,” said Jay Simmonds, assistant superintendent of Student Support Services for Ceres Unified.
“The last three years, we’ve seen a spike in illicit drug-use suspensions,” Ceres Unified Child Welfare & Attendance Director Jose Beltran said. “Ninety percent of those numbers are related to vaping pens and cartridges.”
CUSD had 165 illicit drug-related suspensions during the 2018-19 school year, up from 110 in 2016-17. The district suspended 18 students for illicit drug-related offenses in 2018-19, up from eight in 2017-18.
The law firms of Baron & Budd, P.C. and Panish, Shea, & Boyle, LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ceres Unified against JUUL Labs, Inc. The suit was filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Jan. 16.
“Ceres Unified School District cannot be expected to carry the burden, or repair the damage, of a student vaping epidemic created by JUUL’s deceptive marketing practices to our youth,” said Rahul Ravipudi, Partner at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.
The lawsuit seeks injunction and abatement to stop the use of e-cigarettes, which CUSD states has severely interfered with school operations. CUSD also seeks compensatory damages to provide relief from the financial losses as a result of students being absent from school, coordinating outreach and education programs regarding the health risks of vaping, and enforcement actions – such as vape detectors, video surveillance, and staff to monitor the school’s property in an effort to combat the e-cigarette crisis.
The Ceres lawsuit follows those filed against JUUL by districts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Glendale, Compton and Anaheim.
Simmonds said CUSD is “doing everything in our means to stop problem. We offer counseling and drug intervention. If that doesn’t work, there are consequences, including suspension and up to expulsion.”
Since entering the market in 2015, JUUL has dominated the e-cigarette industry and now controls over 70 percent of the market. Reports found that in 2018, 4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products, with 3.6 million of those students using e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million. That growth is largely based on JUUL’s market strategy, which is to target school-age children to ensure the continual growth of their consumer base.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the 2018 spike in nicotine vaping was the largest for any substance recorded in 44 years. JUUL’s aggressive, strategic marketing and product designs not only create an addiction crisis among youth consumers, but also a widespread burden on school districts.
“The majority of vaping offenses are at the 9-12 grade levels,” Beltran said. “We are seeing cases pop up at the junior highs as early as seventh grade. We’re focusing on educating students and parents. Some parents aren’t aware of what a vape pen or vape cartridge looks like. It’s so easy to hide it just because of how they make it.”