Several Kentucky School Districts Sue Juul Over Vaping Crisis
Juul used deceptive marketing practices to encourage teenagers and adolescents to use their vaping products. At least, that’s what several school districts in Kentucky are claiming in a new multidistrict lawsuit. Earlier this week, Jessamine County became the fifth in Kentucky – along with Jefferson, Fayette, Bullitt, and Marion counties – to initiate legal proceedings against the vaping company.
The lawsuit, which is also joined by a handful of other school districts across the country, aims to hold Juul accountable for the widespread damage its vaping products have caused. The Kentucky school boards believe that the vaping crisis is a direct consequence of Juul’s decision to market its products so aggressively directly to young people.
How Were Juul’s Marketing Practices Deceptive?
In its advertisements, Juul claimed that vaping was safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. In fact, the FDA reports that Juul marketed its vaping products as “modified risk tobacco products,” which are “deemed lower-risk” and “expected to benefit the health of the population.” In actuality, however, Juul vape pens and other products don’t fall under this classification. Instead, Jull products are classified as “regular tobacco products” – the same category as cigarettes.
Juul didn’t just misclassify its products in advertisements. The company is also accused of targeting its ads toward kids and young people. According to reports, Juul representatives regularly visited high schools as part of its ad campaign and, once teachers had left the room, told students that Juul vape pens were “totally safe” and “99 percent safer than cigarettes.”
Many also argue that Juul’s wide variety of flavored vaping products were also designed to entice kids to use their products. The FDA’s commissioner, Ned Sharpless, even took to Twitter to accuse Juul of using “flavors that appeal to kids.” Those include watermelon, strawberry milk, mango, cappuccino, mint, strawberry lemonade, and grape.
Just how persuasive have Juul’s ad campaigns been? Juul began to market its vaping products in 2015. That campaign, called “Vaporized,” aimed to make its vaping products a “cool lifestyle accessory” for young people. In 2017, the company relied heavily on Instagram and Twitter, where it shared photos of young people using their products. According to federal data, teen vaping surged by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018. From the looks of it, Juul’s aggressive campaign tactics worked.
Companies Have a Duty to Market Products Safely, Obey Federal Law
When a company decides to manufacture and sell a product, it has to obey certain rules and laws. This is particularly true for companies that sell products that are potentially addictive and subject to federal regulation. Generally speaking, companies have a duty to be transparent and clear about any risks. If a company like Juul fails to do so – or misrepresents the dangers – it can potentially be liable for resulting harm.
Liability exists because states have product liability laws. If a company sells a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, it can be strictly liable for injuries or damage. Strict liability means that injured victims don’t have to prove that the company was negligent. They’ll simply have to prove that their injuries are a result of using the product as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way.
Lawsuits Seek to Hold Juul Accountable, Recover Damages for Injured Teen Vapers
The Kentucky counties aren’t the only plaintiffs filing lawsuits against Juul. Teens and their families, who have been harmed because of Juul’s vape pens, are also filing suit. These lawsuits serve two purposes. First, the plaintiffs are attempting to hold Juul fully accountable for its deceptive and dangerous marketing practices. Second, the plaintiffs are demanding that Juul pay – in cold hard cash – for the harm it’s caused. Damages recovered through a Juul vape pen lawsuit can compensate for:
- Medical expenses
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, and more.
If a teen or other vape pen user dies because of a Juul product, their family may also be able to secure damages for their wrongful death. Those damages vary from state to state.