Local school officials in Kansas said they’re preparing to file a lawsuit targeting the e-cigarette and vaping industry in an effort to combat a rising health crisis among children and underage teenagers after a string of vaping-related deaths have been reported nationwide.
The Goddard school board on Monday passed an unanimous resolution to have a local law firm sue the makers, distributors and sellers of electronic cigarettes and vaping products, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday.
“We have found that it is disruptive to our education process on a daily basis. And we believe that it is our responsibility as a school district to protect the kids from what we feel is a … growing crisis,” school board President Kevin McWhorter said.
The lawsuit, expected to be filed in upcoming weeks, is thought to be the first of its kind filed by a school district.
The school board’s resolution says the litigation will seek to “compensate the district for damages suffered by the district and its students as a results of the manufacture, marketing, sale and use of electronic-cigarettes and vaping products, and to seek any other appropriate relief.”
The district does not intend to seek class action status, and the resolution does not specify a dollar amount.
“It has become apparent to us over the last couple of years that we have a crisis of vaping,” McWhorter said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week found that one company, Juul, deliberately misled customers by illegally marketing its nicotine pods as less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
The law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,” acting FDA Commissioner Norman “Ned” Sharpless said in a statement.
“JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”
Goddard Superintendent Justin Henry said that studies have found that one in five high schoolers and 1 in 20 middle schoolers used e-cigarettes last year.
“It’s a big issue. It’s [children] doing it, how it’s impacting their brain now and in the future, how much time and resources our teachers and administrators and law enforcement have to put toward this,” Henry said.
The Wichita Eagle reported that it is unclear if a student in the Goddard school district, 15 miles east of Wichita, has fallen ill to using e-cigarette or vaping products.
However, health officials in Kansas on Tuesday confirmed the first death in the state linked to an outbreak of lung illness associated with using e-cigarettes, marking at least the sixth reported death across the country.
A 50-year-old patient, “had a history of underlying health issues and was hospitalized with symptoms that progressed rapidly.”
It is unclear what types of vaping products were used by the patent. In a majority of the cases to date, patients reported using e-cigarette products containing elements of marijuana, including THC.
“It is time to stop vaping,” said Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment.
“If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop. The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify. I’m extremely alarmed for the health and safety of Kansans who are using vaping products and urge them to stop until we can determine the cause of vaping related lung injuries and death,” Norman said.
More than 450 people have reportedly fallen ill across 33 states after using vaping products. Officials are focusing on possible contaminants and counterfeit products.