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Delaware school districts join potential class action lawsuit against Juul

Delaware school districts are signing on to a potential class action lawsuit against Juul Labs, the makers of a vaping device popular among teens and young adults. 

“School districts have incurred substantial costs due to Juul,” said Chase Brockstedt of law firm Baird Mandalas Brockstedt. “There’s a tremendous amount of resources that have been spent to address it.”  

Indian River, Cape Henlopen, Red Clay and Colonial school districts have confirmed their participation, but Baird Mandalas Brockstedt intends to represent all Delaware school districts in the case. 

“We’re in the process of providing information and establishing relationships,” Brockstedt said. “We’re not filing until all school districts are on board. We already have a complaint drafted and ready to go.”

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John Marinucci, executive director of the Delaware School Board Association, has informed school districts of the potential lawsuit . 

“If this thing settles and there’s money available, you want to be a party to that. If it settles and there is no money, there’s really no cost to the districts,” Marinucci said. “And the districts have expended dollars, on cessation and anti-vaping campaigns and trying to help students understand the effects.” 

Chase T. Brockstedt

Though some of the negative health effects of vaping have been documented (popcorn lung, EVALIa higher risk of COVID-19), the long-term effects are still largely unknown. However, nicotine is harmful regardless of how it’s consumed, especially to youth and young adults. It can harm brain development, which continues into the mid-20s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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The CDC reports that e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth since 2014. Use declined between 2015 and 2017, but exploded in the following years. 

Juul, which manufactures nicotine vaping devices and nicotine pods, was highlighted in the CDC’s February 2019 report, “Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students.”  

“This recent increase in e-cigarette use among youths is consistent with observed increases in sales of the e-cigarette Juul,” researchers wrote. “Sales of Juul increased by approximately 600% during 2016–2017 and increased even further through 2018. By December 2017, Juul held the largest market share of any e-cigarette.” 

In this file photo illustration taken on October 2, 2018 shows the contents of an electronic Juul cigarette box in Washington. - US regulators are looking into potentially "deceptive marketing" used by popular e-cigarette brand JUUL Labs that targeted teens, according to a news report. The Federal Trade Commission, which handles consumer product complaints, is investigating the marketing practices and is deciding whether to seek monetary damages, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Juul’s value, though declining, has been in the tens-of-billions for several years. 

Juul stands out among other vaping companies for several reasons. Significantly, the CDC reports a single Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, making it more potent and addictive. 

More:'We need to tell everyone': Teens, young adults who vape more at risk for COVID-19, study says

Background:Juul suspends all US sales of fruity e-cigarettes amid scrutiny

For school districts, it stands out due to its popularity among young people. Juul devices look like a USB, sleek and thin. Vaping from a Juul produces no smoke or odor, making it easy to use without detection.  

Most concerning, a Stanford University School of Medicine study found Juul’s early advertising to be “patently youth-oriented.” 

“The school districts have spent tremendous amount of money, time and resources to combat a problem specifically targeted by marketing efforts,” Brockstedt said. 

He said costs include: 

  • Nicotine addiction prevention and cessation efforts. 
  • Labor costs due to increases in disciplinary action, counseling needs and student monitoring needs (i.e., in restrooms).
  • Detection costs such as surveillance systems. 

Baird Mandalas Brockstedt intends to show Juul caused school districts to incur these costs in court, where Juul is already facing numerous of lawsuits. 

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Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings announced in February the state would join a 39-state coalition’s investigation of Juul’s marketing and sales practices, including the targeting of youth.