What School Administrators Should Know About JUUL

As a school administrator, you’re likely heavily involved in fighting the vaping epidemic that’s swept through school districts all over the country. If not, you’re no doubt familiar with the outlines. The most prominent vaping company, JUUL Labs, partially owned by Altria Group, Inc., owner of tobacco company Philip Morris USA, created a product that was more addictive than cigarettes, marketed it to children without telling them what was in it, and then sat back and watched the money roll in. This strategy, as irresponsible as it is, has paid off tremendously. In 2018, JUUL Labs was valued at $15 billion.

The consequences have been devastating. And while it may be children developing an addiction that they could be living with for years to come, it’s entire school districts that are paying the price. This is what’s happening:

Discipline. Imagine 50 students are being suspended throughout the district-wide every month for vaping. A typical suspension might last five days. For 50 students, that’s 250 days — more than 1,000 learning hours that have just disappeared. Not only does this lost time directly affect a campus’s budget, but it becomes an additional drain on teachers’ time and resources as they work to help these students catch up on the material that they weren’t in class to learn.

Treatment. While it’s often required, many educators are now realizing that discipline by itself is not a deterrent. In fact, it can make things worse for those who have become addicted to nicotine through JUUL. In order to help addicted students, administrators are hiring counselors and, if available, outside addiction intervention services. They’re beginning to plan for additional programs geared toward stopping vaping before it becomes a problem, some of which will be implemented as early as third or fourth grade. For the time being, teachers, who are in the trenches and see the effects JUUL has had on their students every day, are realizing that an entire generation of students is being afflicted by nicotine addiction.

In-School Services. JUUL devices are used with small flavor pods that contain as much nicotine as 30 to 40 cigarettes. This has a severe effect on the physical condition of users. Students have reported feelings of anxiety and depression. Often, they can’t sit still in class long enough to get through an entire lesson. They require more and more attention and resources from school nurses and education-related health services, as well as changes to the curriculum to help them cope with their addiction.

Physical Upgrades. In addition to all of this, many schools are considering changes to their physical layout, as well as upgrades, such as sensors that can detect JUUL vapor, to make it more difficult for students to conceal their vaping. This unsurprisingly will be very expensive. For a normal-size school district, the costs could be in the millions. Now multiply that by virtually every school district in the nation.

JUUL is currently facing several lawsuits for the harm it’s caused students and the damage it’s done to school districts. To learn more, or if you believe you have a claim, fill out the form on the left of this page. 

Fighting Back

JUUL and other vaping companies have made it clear that the well-being of young people and the cost to local schools and communities are not important to them. It got into this business to make money and can’t be counted on to wake up, realize what it’s doing is wrong and stop. This means that any solution must, to a very large degree, come from the school districts themselves. We are seeing this now in the lawsuits that have recently been filed by districts in Kansas, Missouri and New York. These are some of the first. They will not be the last.

Trepidation over legal action is understandable. However, it is sometimes required to combat a problem of this size. As we learned in the fight against Big Tobacco, it accomplishes several important objectives. Legal representation will get schools and school districts a seat at the table. It will get them the opportunity to expose these companies’ wrongful practices. As we are currently seeing in the lawsuits brought against the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid crisis, the courts can demand that some of the billions of dollars brought in by the vaping industry be used to repair the damage it’s caused and to save school districts and taxpayers millions of dollars in the process.

The pressure is already mounting. Companies such as Kroger and Walgreens have recently announced they will stop selling all vaping products inside their stores. Following a string of vaping-related deaths, JUUL announced it was replacing its CEO and suspending all print, broadcast and digital advertising inside the U.S. There is an opportunity before us to solve this problem now, and the Lanier Law Firm is working with school administrators, educators and teachers to make sure it happens. It doesn’t have to last decades the way it did with Big Tobacco. The only question left to answer is whether or not we’ll do it.