OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -- Olathe Public Schools is suing e-cigarette company Juul due to misleading advertisements targeted toward middle and high school students.
The Board of Education passed a resolution Friday at a special board meeting authorizing legal counsel to initiate litigation and file suit.
E-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900% during 2011-2015. Current e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students during the past year, from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018.
Olathe Public Schools leadership say they understand the threat to student health and is taking action against the epidemic. They also say it is the district’s responsibility to protect its students.
“As a Board of Education, we have a duty to do what’s right for students, the community and our future generations,” said Olathe Public Schools Board President Shannon Wickliffe. “Vaping is an epidemic and, as community leaders, we’re taking the lead to protect our students and future leaders. The hidden dangers of vaping are triggering a health crisis and we’re taking action.”
In 2018, more than 3.6 million youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.
“Our role as a public school district is to provide our students with the best educational environment to help them learn and grow. To protect our students is paramount,” Olathe Public Schools Superintendent John Allison said. “Middle and high school students, we believe, have been targeted by e-cigarette and vaping manufacturers with false and misleading advertising. Vaping has caused a significant disruption in our buildings. As smart as our students are, they don’t understand the long-term ramifications of vaping and the amount of addictive chemicals they are dealing with. It’s our role to protect our students today and in the future.”
This litigation does not require the Olathe School District to allocate financial resources.
Later on Friday, a spokesperson with Juul released the following statement to KCTV5 News:
"We have not yet seen this proposed complaint. JUUL Labs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world. Our product has always only been intended to be a viable alternative for the one billion current adult smokers in the world. We have never marketed to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products. We have launched an aggressive action plan [newsroom.juul.com] to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission.
We strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. Most recently [newsroom.juul.com], we announced the deployment of technology at retail stores that automatically restricts the sale of JUUL products until a government-issued ID is electronically scanned to verify age and ID validity. This technology also limits the amount of JUUL products that can be purchased to prevent reselling or sharing to those underage, and it will soon be mandatory for all JUUL product sales across the country.
It was our hope that others in the category would self-impose similar restrictions to address youth usage, and it is now our hope that regulators will impose these same restrictions to protect youth and to preserve the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes, the deadliest legal consumer product known to man."