LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- The Jefferson County Board of Education is suing a major e-cigarette manufacturer, claiming it targets children.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a resolution authorizing the school district to pursue a civil lawsuit against Juul. JCPS claims there has been a sharp increase in the number of students who are using the vaping products and that it has cost the district resources to respond to these cases.
JCPS becomes the third school district in Kentucky to sue Juul, joining more than 100 other school districts around the country that have filed lawsuits against the company. The suits have all been transferred to a federal courtroom in San Francisco, where a judge will look at all the cases, which all share many similarities.
"The health and safety of our students is paramount," board member Chris Brady said. "The health and safety of our students is one of the very first things we care about as a board."
According to JCPS, the district has seen a 61 percent increase in incidents related to vaping, with 92 incidents reported through the 74th day of school in 2018 and 148 in 2019 through the same time period.
"It seems that their goal is to create lifelong users that are going to be addicts of nicotine, and what we're trying to do is anything in our power to stop that from happening," Brady said.
The board has retained the services of Ronald Johnson with the firm Hendy, Johnson, Vaughn, Emery. Johnson is also representing Bullitt County and Fayette County.
The suit claims Juul is marketing to students
"They did that by marketing and promoting the product only to children, making it taste the way that children want it to taste, telling children it is cool and it's what all their friends are doing," Johnson said.
JCPS claims Juul has also cost the district, which has had to provide counseling, education, and discipline due to students using the product. According to Johnson, the school is seeking compensation for those costs and hopes to have a source of funds for all schools to deal with the problem moving forward to stop kids from starting to use vaping products and to help students quit.
Taxpayers will not be on the hook for the litigation. According to Johnson, his firm works on a pure contingency fee basis, which means it only gets paid if the suit is successful.
"Hopefully if the case is successful, it will actually keep them from using taxpayer dollars in the future to deal with this problem," he said.
Johnson said he had a status conference with the court this week and said the judge did understand the urgency in the case and will likely push the case forward. According to Johnson, the judge will have a scheduling order before the end of January.