Wake County School Board votes to file lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County Board of Education decided Tuesday night to file a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul.

The school board said the e-cigarettes are having a negative impact on students. The board said vaping is endangering student health and placing a burden on the school system.

The vote Tuesday night to file the lawsuit was unanimous with the board saying the suit is for the “harmful effects of vaping.”

Vaping is currently marketed as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco products, but the board worries its nicotine levels can lead to addiction.

While more than 100 school systems across the country have filed suit against the company, Wake County would be the first school system in North Carolina to do so.

Some students say e-cigarette use is somewhat common among their classmates.

Nikhil Patel, an Enloe High School student spoke to the school board about vaping.

“I have firsthand experiences that include seeing my friends vaping, walking into a bathroom during break to only find it full of students vaping secretly, and even being asked by one of my peers if I’d like to vape,” he said.

School board member Chis Heagarty said he has received many calls from parents of high school students, and even middle school parents, worried about e-cigarette use.

“You see them disguised as USB drives, as pens — it becomes almost a game to see who can use these in class without getting caught,” Heagarty said.

School board chairman Keith Sutton says vaping comes at a cost to children’s health and the school district.

“When you look at discipline costs, costs for trying to identify – investigate cases where there may have been e-cigarettes involved, awareness campaigns — all those kinds of things are some of the costs that are involved in that,” Sutton said.

In June, Juul settled a lawsuit brought by the state in 2019 regarding the company’s marketing practices to underage users.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein reached an agreement with the e-cigarette company that will require the company to pay $40 million and make drastic changes to the way it does business.

Stein filed a lawsuit against the company in Durham County in 2019 that accused JUUL of using ads that appealed to minors. The lawsuit also accused the company of encouraging teens to start vaping with their sleek devices and sweet flavors.

“Approximately one out of every five high schoolers in our state have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days,” Stein said in June.

The $40 million will fund programs to help people quit e-cigarettes, prevent e-cigarette addiction, and research e-cigarettes.

The settlement also requires JUUL to change its business practices.

For instance, JUUL can no longer sell new flavors of e-cigarettes in North Carolina without FDA authorization. The settlement also requires JUUL to cut down on social media advertising and their ads can no longer appeal to minors.

JUUL must also make changes to how they sell their products and use age verification systems to sell only to adults.

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