Cheney Free Press -

By Jonathan Olsen-Koziol
Cheney Free Press 

School district may join vaping lawsuit


Last updated 4/21/2022 at 7:43am

CHENEY – The Cheney School District (CSD) is considering joining a nationwide mass tort lawsuit against Juul Labs. The company is a maker of e-cigarettes that accounts for approximately 40% of the e-cigarette market. The Juul brand is said to be more popular for teens and adults than other types of vaping because of flavor and easy access to products.

Garret Williams spoke at the district’s April 13 meeting on behalf of the Stevens-Clay law firm to discuss the mass action lawsuit. Over 700 school districts from around the country have already joined the suit against Juul.

“We are out recruiting Washington school districts to join a mass action against Juul where every school district will have their own lawsuit against Juul Labs to hold them responsible for the increase of vaping in our communities,” Williams said.

Fifty-eight Washington school districts are in the process of joining the mass action lawsuit. Those districts represent over 200,00 students, according to Williams. The school board wouldn’t have to vote to take action on the lawsuit, the only thing that’s required is signing an engagement agreement with the Stevens-Clay as well as the law firm that is presiding over all 700 cases in San Francisco. The engagement agreement must be signed by April 30.

The lawsuit has two focal objectives. The first is to have a federal judge institute an injunction that prohibits Juul Labs from advertising to minors in any way. This means no advertisements on media that is likely to be consumed by minors, restricting the markets in which vape products are sold, and limiting the kinds of flavors that can be produced. Certain kid-centric flavors like cotton candy have already been banned in another lawsuit that Juul recently settled with the Washington State Attorney General Office for $22.5 million.

“Juul was advertising on channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central in the beginning and it was billed as not being nicotine and a healthy alternative to smoking,” Williams said.

The other objective is to help school districts combat underage vaping by providing funding for vape detectors in school bathrooms and for educational programs that teach students the dangers associated with vaping.

Williams said his law firm is offering pro-bono services to Washington school districts.

“We represent school districts all across the state—this we think this is something we should just do,” Williams said.

Cheney School Board President Mitch Swenson asked Williams if there was any liability to the district for “Throwing our name out there?”

“No,” Williams replied bluntly.

Williams was adamant the CSD has no reason not to sign up for the lawsuit.

None of the board members took issue with idea of joining the lawsuit. All agreed to continue the discussion at the next board meeting.

“When you look at some of the student health and youth information, it’s an issue,” Cheney School District Superintendent Rob Roettger said. “If there are some ways to have some resources to help combat it, I think that’s appropriate.”


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