Following other school districts in Washington and across the nation, Seattle Public Schools announced late Thursday that it is suing e-cigarette company Juul Labs.
The lawsuit accuses the company of targeting minors in its advertising and for contributing to a rise in vaping and nicotine addiction in children.
“We can’t just sit by while our students suffer the effects of being targeted by Juul,” said Superintendent Denise Juneau in the news release announcing the suit.
Over the last year, e-cigarette use increased by 10.5% among middle schoolers and 27.5% among high schoolers, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Results from the latest Washington State Healthy Youth Survey show that, between 2016 and 2018, e-cigarette use increased significantly, from 13% to 21% among 10th graders and from 20% to 30% among 12th graders.
Citing the national survey, Juul announced Thursday it would halt the sale of its mint-flavored products in the U.S. Meanwhile, new government figures show more than 2,000 people have been diagnosed with vaping illnesses in the still-unsolved U.S. outbreak, according to the Associated Press.
Starting last month, the Washington State Board of Health approved a 120-day emergency ban on flavored vape products. The Trump administration has proposed extending a similar ban nationwide.
Seattle, the state’s largest school district, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Seattle, but, the announcement said, it will likely be combined with existing litigation against the company from other school districts. That complaint remains pending in a San Francisco court.
Seattle follows the lead of a tiny school district just an hour away: La Conner, which in early October filed a similar lawsuit against Juul. Later in October, King County announced its own federal suit, and San Diego schools may soon join the Los Angeles school district in its litigation against the e-cigarette maker.
“We’re tired of companies that just want to make money at children’s expense,” Whitney Meissner, superintendent of La Conner schools, told The Washington Post.
In its lawsuit, Seattle also names Altria, the parent of tobacco company Phillip Morris, and Eonsmoke, which the district cites for making products similar to Juul’s and for spreading a “doit4juul” campaign on social media.
The school district asks for money to fund addiction treatment and prevention efforts in Seattle, and for a halt to the company’s marketing toward kids under 18.