BULLITT COUNTY, Ky. (WAVE) - Citing a dramatic increase in the number of vaping infractions, Bullitt County Schools becomes the first Kentucky school system to sue Juul and other vaping manufacturers.
The schools system claims vaping has created an epidemic of nicotine addiction, disrupted the learning environment and diverted resources away from teaching.
The suit was filed late Monday for Bullitt County Schools by Louisville attorney Ron Johnson.
“In the schools is where kids are learning about vape,” Johnson said. “It's where they are acquiring the vaping products. It is where they smoke the vaping products. Most the kids' day is at school and it's at school that is the center of gravity for all of the problems associated with vaping. Not to mention the impact it has had on the schools themselves.”
Before Thanksgiving, the Bullitt County Board of Education announced its unanimous decision to sue e-cigarette and vaping manufacturers, distributors and sellers.
In a statement, BCPS Superintendent Jesse Bacon said, “In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of infractions that involve vaping in our middle and high schools. The amount of resources being used and the instructional time that is lost as a result of this issue is alarming, to say the least. We are filing a lawsuit against Juul and other similar companies to hold them accountable for creating this epidemic of nicotine addiction that affects the health of our students, disrupts the learning environment of our schools, and diverts resources away from the core mission of Bullitt County Public Schools, which is educating students.”
The board claims e-cigarette and vaping companies target school children in their campaigns and that the use of the products by Bullitt County students has dramatically increased.
The lawsuit filed by BCPS targets e-cigarette companies’ marketing practices to pay back Bullitt County schools for any losses suffered trying to fight the vaping epidemic.
“These are kids who can’t make it through one class without needing a hit of nicotine from their vaping device,” Johnson said. “That disrupts the learning environment. You have kids going to the bathroom to vape. You have kids going to the parking lot to vape. So again, a disruption in the learning environment.”
There was no response to a request for comment from vaping company Juul.
American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley did provide a statement. The AVA describes itself as “a pro-vaping advocacy organization; not a trade group or industry spokesperson.”
“With the number of lawsuits currently being faced by Juul Labs,” Conley said, “it should come as no surprise that money hungry, settlement-seeking attorneys are attempting to sign up as many plaintiffs as possible to file frivolous lawsuits against the company. This lawsuit is a great representation of misplaced priorities at work, as Kentucky still has one of, if not the, worst youth smoking rates in the country, yet apparently that problem is not worthy of a lawsuit.”
Johnson said one-third of Bullitt County students admit to vaping and fewer than half that number smoke cigarettes.
“Really the whole reason this litigation exists,” Johnson said, “is because of the greed of Juul and the other vaping companies marketing this product to kids.”