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Mississippi school district files suit against JUUL

The district claims that JUUL and its partners targeted youths in marketing campaigns for...
The district claims that JUUL and its partners targeted youths in marketing campaigns for financial gain, which resulted in a substantial increase in e-cigarette use among teens.(WDAM)
Published: Dec. 6, 2019 at 5:30 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2019 at 5:31 PM CST
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - A Mississippi school district has filed a federal lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. for its alleged role in the youth vaping epidemic.

The Jefferson County Public School District filed the suit Thursday in the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of the district and other school districts in the state facing a similar situation in combating youth vaping.

The district named JUUL Labs and partners Altria Group Inc., Altria Client Services, Altira Group Distribution Company, Nu Mark LLC, Phillip Morris USA Inc. and John Does 1-100 as defendants, collectively referred to as “JUUL Youth Marketing Enterprise” in the complaint.

The district claims JUUL and its partners targeted youths in marketing campaigns for financial gain, which resulted in a substantial increase in e-cigarette use among teens. The Jefferson County School District said it and other districts have had to divert school resources in order to combat vaping and nicotine addiction among students.

The suit accuses the JUUL Youth Marketing Enterprise of creating a public nuisance, violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, negligence and gross negligence in its marketing techniques.

The complaint cites several marketing practices that JUUL allegedly engaged in to lure youths to their product, including entering school campuses, selling flavors appealing to teens, manipulating nicotine levels, using deceptive advertising on social media, lying about the safety of e-cigarettes and hosting youth-focused parties across the nation where free JUUL samples were given out.

Many of the marketing practices cited in the lawsuit were previously banned for use by cigarette companies due to their appeal to minors.

The district accused JUUL of knowingly targeting youths and even borrowing marketing strategies aimed at teens from Big Tobacco internal documents that have been made public.

According to the complaint, JUUL’s success is directly linked to the company’s targeting of teens, just as Big Tobacco did before them. A study from Tobacco Control cited in the complaint showed that teens aged 15 to 17 years old are 16 times more likely to use JUUL than people aged 25 to 34.

JUUL has faced increased pressure from the Federal Drug Administration and lawmakers for its role in the rise of teen vaping.

The FDA sent a letter to JUUL and other e-cigarette companies in September 2018 demanding a plan to reduce vaping among youths. A month later, the FDA raided JUUL headquarters and seized more than 1,000 documents related to the company’s sales and marketing practices.

JUUL responded by declaring its intent to stop selling certain flavors in stores and restrict purchases on the JUUL website to people aged 21 and older. The company also shut down its social media accounts.

The Jefferson County School District demands a jury trial in which they request awarding relief to fund prevention education and addiction treatment, actual and compensatory damages, maximum statutory damages, attorney fees and cost of suit and pre-judgement and post-judgement interest.

The district also seeks to have the court prohibit the JUUL Youth Marketing Enterprise from engaging in further actions described in the lawsuit.

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