San Diego Unified School District Files Suit Against JUUL

The San Diego Unified School District has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. for the company’s role in cultivating and fostering an e-cigarette epidemic that disrupts the education and learning environment across the district. The suit was filed in San Diego Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2020.

The district’s lawsuit follows those filed by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Glendale Unified School District, Compton Unified School District and Anaheim Elementary District, all against JUUL for the same negligence and nuisance claims.

"Our principals and other administrators fully support the lawsuit," said Donis Coronel, executive director of the Administrators Association San Diego City Schools (AASD), the AFSA's newest local. "Vaping involving high school and middle level students has been extremely disruptive to the educational process and takes the administrators' time away from dealing with other critical matters. Administrators are also well aware of the potential health risks for students who vape."

The lawsuit seeks injunction and abatement to stop the e-cigarette epidemic, which has severely impacted the school districts by interfering with normal school operations. The districts also seek compensatory damages to provide relief from financial losses as a result of students being absent from school, coordinating outreach and education programs regarding the health risks of vaping, and enforcement actions such as vape detectors, video surveillance and staff to monitor the school’s property in an effort to combat the e-cigarette crisis.

In October 2019, the ASFA General Executive Board committed to making this issue a top communications and advocacy priority. The board asked the federal government to:

  1. Remove flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products from the marketplace.
  2. Ensure e-cigarette and vaping products are subjected to review before they reach the market, and products now on the market are reviewed promptly.
  3. End marketing practices that appeal to kids.
  4. Stop online e-cigarette and vaping product sales until sales to kids can be prevented.

“Our district is in the business of educating students in a healthy and safe environment," said San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This lawsuit supports district goals by holding JUUL accountable for its harmful marketing practices and unsafe products.”

Since entering the market in 2015, JUUL has dominated the e-cigarette industry and now controls more than 70% of the market. Reports found that in 2018, 4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products, with 3.6 million of those students using e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million. That growth is largely based on JUUL’s market strategy, which is to target school-age children to ensure the continual growth of their consumer base.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the 2018 spike in nicotine vaping was the largest for any substance recorded in 44 years. JUUL’s aggressive, strategic marketing and product designs not only create an addiction crisis among youth consumers, but also a widespread burden on school districts.

An additional national study found that more than 27% of high school students use e-cigarette products. Locally, student vaping has increased substantially in just two short years, with the percentage of SDUSD students who currently use electronic vapor products climbing dramatically from 20172019.