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KCS joins lawsuit against vaping company for 'intentionally marketing to young students'

Several school systems across the state have joined the Knox County Board of Education and 18 other Tennessee school districts in the lawsuit.
Credit: WBIR

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County Schools is joining a pending lawsuit against JUUL, a manufacturer of vaping products, for "intentionally marketing to young students."

Several school systems across the state have joined the Knox County Board of Education and 18 other Tennessee school districts in the lawsuit. 

KCS became the latest school system in the state to join the lawsuit.

The Knox County Board of Education voted unanimously in June to join other districts seeking to recover the costs of current and future prevention programs, counseling, and treatment for addicted students.

According to a press release, JUUL Labs, Inc., is the subject of the lawsuit that asserts that the company fraudulently and intentionally marketed to children through social media, online advertising and children’s television networks.

Attorneys said JUUL marketed candy and fruit-flavored vapes, or pods, to appeal to young people, and vaping products were sold online, making it easier to avoid legal age requirements.

“Tennessee students were misled when JUUL said vaping was not harmful, because we now know vaping products actually can have 10 times the nicotine of a cigarette,” said attorney Chris McCarty of Lewis Thomason law firm, the Tennessee counsel on the lawsuit. 

William Shinoff, an attorney with the Frantz Law Group in California and counsel on the national lawsuit, said the potential benefits for school districts participating in the lawsuit are:

  • Compensation so that districts are not forced to draw from general funds for prevention and treatment programs.
  • Funding for education programs to warn about the harmful health effects of vaping.
  • Additional staffing to prevent vaping on school grounds.
  • Counselors to handle social and emotional issues that result from nicotine addiction.
  • Placement of vaping detectors in bathrooms.

Funding from school districts is not required to join the lawsuit, and attorneys are working on a contingency basis, officials said.

The press release mentions that the lawsuit also seeks intervention to ban the sale of the flavor pods and stop the intentional marketing of the product to children. 

As far as detrimental impact, Shinoff pointed to a U.S. Surgeon General advisory on e-cigarette use among youth.

“The advisory said JUUL e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine, and nicotine use during adolescence can harm the developing brain and impact learning, memory and attention,” Shinoff said. “To protect our children and students, this is an issue that needs to be stopped in its tracks, and school boards are on the front lines of the battle.”

Here is the list of school systems that have joined the lawsuit:

  • Bledsoe County
  • Bristol City
  • Cannon County
  • Chester County
  • Claiborne County
  • Cumberland County
  • Elizabethton City
  • Etowah City
  • Greeneville City
  • Greene County
  • Humphreys County
  • Knox County
  • Lincoln County
  • Millington Municipal
  • Oneida Special School District
  • Putnam County
  • Roane County
  • Sullivan County
  • Warren County