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SFUSD, Juul Settle Lawsuit for Targeting E-Cigarettes Towards Minors

School District gets unspecified amount as Juul settles with over 5,000 plaintiffs

By Evan Symon, December 9, 2022 12:32 pm

The San Francisco United School District announced on Thursday that a settlement had been reached with Juul labs for a nearly 3 year old lawsuit over targeting e-cigarettes towards minors.

The suit began in December of 2019, with the SFUSD joining five other Northern California school districts in suing the e-cigarette maker. The case, which was sent to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, charged that Juul had marketed to those under 18, and sought damages for “marketing efforts that specifically targeted youth under the age of 18 with advertising and messaging designed to appeal to minors.” In addition to health concerns and fears that e-cigarettes could lead to cigarettes and other tobacco products, school officials also noted rampant loss of class time from those who vaped.

“Students miss out on valuable instructional time when they leave class to vape or are late to class because they were vaping,” said former SF Board of Education President Stevon Cook in 2019. “As a school district, we’ve had to devote significant time and resources to address the use of e-cigarettes among students.”

While the suit was delayed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, thousands more plaintiffs entered similar lawsuits against Juul, numbering around 10,000 in total prior to this week. Juul, besieged by lawsuits and other challenges, opted to settle more than 5,000 cases this week, including some of their largest cases out there, such as the SFUSD suit. The SFUSD declined to give the exact settlement amount in a statement on Thursday, but noted that the funds will now go to addressing youth vaping and youth nicotine use in SFUSD, nicotine danger education, and fighting to reduce nicotine addiction in underage youth.

“San Francisco public schools are champions of tobacco prevention and education, and we are very pleased with the outcome of this litigation,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne. “This settlement represents a very positive outcome that will amplify the efforts of our health education staff and benefit SFUSD’s students by helping to reduce and deter youth nicotine use.”

SF Board of Education President Jenny Lam added, “The settlement will make a significant difference in the public health fight against youth e-cigarette use, and will further advance SFUSD’s established health education work by providing meaningful resources to support prevention efforts and education around youth e-cigarette use.”

Juul settles thousands of suits

As a result of the lawsuits, as well as a major decline in sales and the settlements doled out this week, Juul has gone into a severe decline in 2022. The company has lost 95% their value following Altria’s $12.8 billion investment in the company in 2018, with mass layoffs occurring last month. While the settlements with SFUSD and 5,000 other plaintiffs removed much financial burden off the company this week, Juul still has 5,000 other active suits regarding targeting to minors and narrowly avoided bankruptcy this year, with 2023 looking uncertain.

“A lot of people have been gambling with investing in vaping and e-cigarettes in the last 10, 15 years,” noted Katerina Pullman, a Washington-based lobbyist, to the Globe on Friday. “A lot of them failed to foresee these ‘targeting to youth’ challenges, especially concerning different flavors. But they are getting hit as hard on those now as cigarette companies did with mascots and free stuff points in the 90’s. Juul is no exception. Especially in California too, as there are a lot of places putting in bans there.”

For the SFUSD, the settlement means that students there will likely see more time devoted to health lessons connected to vaping, as well as other similar programs.

“Effects of drug usage and tobacco usage have been drilled into the last several generations of children,” explained Laura Hawk, a San Diego-based education curriculum advisor, to the Globe. “And we’ve seen usage plummet as a result. The hope here, obviously, is for the same result, but with an altered message. They want to make it clear that this isn’t a safe alternative to smoking, and they also want to call out the different flavors in it.”

Other suits involving Juul and other e-cigarette makers are expected soon.

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One thought on “SFUSD, Juul Settle Lawsuit for Targeting E-Cigarettes Towards Minors

  1. Why did SFUSD use taxpayer funds to file a lawsuit against Juul instead of concerned parents filing class action lawsuits? SFUSD claims that the funds from the settlement will now go to addressing youth vaping and youth nicotine use in SFUSD, nicotine danger education, and fighting to reduce nicotine addiction in underage youth? Hopefully parents and taxpayers will ensure that is the funds will be used as specified and not siphoned for other uses? Maybe an audit of SFUSD’s finances should be made public?

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