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Quakertown Community School District files suit against vaping manufacturer


After two incidents in the last six months when students were found unconscious after vaping, the Quakertown Community School District is doing something about what Superintendent Dr. William Harner calls “a scourge” against young people.

In an 83-page civil lawsuit filed Nov. 1 in U.S. District Court, the district accuses device manufacturer Juul Labs, Inc. of eight specific counts, including racketeering, gross negligence, willful misconduct and product design liability. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“It’s a serious problem,” said Harner. “It’s a growing problem at the high school. … This is serious business.”

School officials blame Juul for aggressively marketing its product to youngsters without acknowledging the health risks. According to district surveys, 53 percent of 12th graders said they vaped in 2017, up from 28 percent in 2017. The same group also self-reported a five-fold increase (from 7 percent to 41 percent) in the use of marijuana or hash oil while vaping.

Harner said a fifth-grader was caught with a vaping device last year. The use of e-cigarettes, mostly in bathrooms but sometimes in classrooms, is disrupting students’ education,” he said.

“An entire generation young Americans is being harmed,” he said.

School director Keith Micucci said health experts “haven’t even scratched the surface of the damage these things are doing to our kids. From a health-care perspective, we know it’s leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome. … I really feel strongly that these are marketed toward our most vulnerable population, which are our teenage students who are trying to figure out their way in the world.”

In suing Juul, the Quakertown School District is following a national trend. School districts in Kansas, Missouri, New York and Washington have also taken on the device manufacturer.

Quakertown is believed to be the first school district in Pennsylvania to sue Juul.

Locally, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele recently filed a civil complaint against Juul, alleging “predatory business practices aimed at turning minors in addicts.”

The Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service has issued an advisory on e-cigarette use among youth, which states “We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”

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