LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - A Midlands school district is joining the legal fight against one of the largest e-cigarette manufacturers in the country, Juul Labs. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, claims that the company had been targeting minors in advertising campaigns by enticing them with fun flavors.
Lexington One now joins dozens of school districts across the country that are part of a class action lawsuit against Juul Labs.
School leaders in the district say we’re currently seeing a vaping epidemic, and that they’ve been working with multiple agencies over the last couple of years to provide community members with information about the dangers of teen vaping.
Federal data show that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than doubled between 2017 and 2019. Last year’s South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that nearly 40% of high schoolers in our state had used an e-cigarette and public health officials believe these numbers are likely underreported.
A pediatrician with Prisma Health, Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, says she’s seen first-hand the effects vaping can have on our youth.
“Teenagers and young adults who vape can develop a severe respiratory illness, including collapsed lungs, including just respiratory failure and they’re very, very addictive and I have seen so many adolescents in my office that have come in here just totally addicted,” said Dr. Greenhouse, who added that sometimes teens are, “Addicted to the point that they are neglecting their school work and they’re failing their classes. Kids that were planning on going to college no longer are because all they can focus on is where their next hit on their Juul is going to come from.”
That doctor also saying that teens, and really everyone, should be even more concerned with vaping, now, amid the coronavirus pandemic as it can cause more severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Lexington One officials say teen vaping has interfered with everyday school operations because suspensions in the district related to e-cigarette use have gone up at an alarming rate over the last two school years, and that this takes away from instruction time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 21% of South Carolina high school students currently use tobacco products. The most used tobacco products among all students are e-cigarettes, and high schoolers report using Juul more than any other brand.
Dr. Greenhouse says this lawsuit is a great first step, but that it won’t be the final solution to the concerns surrounding teen vaping.
“It’s also very important for everyone involved in this to understand that Juul is not the only player in this game and that as Juul gets reigned in, there are other manufacturers that are filling that gap,” said Dr. Greenhouse.
She continued, “The adolescents still have access to these things even if Juul is not on the market, but hopefully, if the lawsuit is resolved then hopefully the other companies may take a look at this and say, 'hey, I don’t want that to happen to me. Maybe we shouldn’t be marketing these things to kids.”
The debate over teen vaping is often scrutinized by people who consider themselves responsible, adult vapors and believe that vaping is a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. Dr. Greenhouse says this has not been proven.
She also wants people to know how addictive vaping can be and that one Juul pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, give or take.
In September of last year, after growing criticism and a new CEO, Juul Labs announced that it was suspending all advertising in the U.S..
Lexington One joining this legal fight against Juul is just the latest in an ongoing conversation surrounding the controversial company in the Midlands. Last year, Lexington County officials announced plans to bring a new Juul plant to the area.
According to the Post and Courier, that plant is currently operating near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.