Indianapolis Public Schools recently joined Fort Wayne Community Schools and nine other Indiana districts in a massive tort case against Juul Labs Inc., underscoring the dangers posed by vaping and e-cigarette products.
The Indiana school districts, as well as thousands of other districts across the country, allege Juul intentionally preyed on teens with a product that is physically and psychologically harmful.
A 2020 Indiana Youth Survey showed that 18% of 11th graders and 23% of 12th graders in northeast Indiana report vaping during the month.
In a post to its website, Juul's chief regulatory officer said the company has “reset.” While millions of adult smokers have converted to its product, Juul “will only be trusted to provide alternatives to adult smokers if we continue to combat underage use, respect the central role of our regulators and build on our shared commitment to science and evidence.”
Too bad the company didn't “reset” earlier when it paid social media influencers to peddle its product or when it marketed flavored products.
Even the linguistics around the word “vape” twist reality, said Nancy Cripe, executive director of Tobacco Free Allen County.
“Vape” implies water, which is natural. Yet, a product such as Juul is an aerosol of chemicals that includes nicotine – a drug we know is unhealthy. Indeed, one Juul cartridge is roughly equivalent to a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cripe is often asked whether vaping and e-cigarettes are better than smoking traditional cigarettes. It is, she said, adding that's not saying much, she said.
A 2018 Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control found that among current youth and young adult Juul users, nearly two-thirds did not know the product always contains nicotine. Like adults, children and young adults are puffing away and becoming addicted to the dopamine dump. It's a feeling that requires more and more puffs to satisfy.
Meanwhile, “youth are reporting signs of severe dependence, such as inability to concentrate in class, using an e-cigarette upon waking and using e-cigarettes at night after waking with a craving,” according to the Truth Initiative, an anti-tobacco organization.
Add to that evidence that vaping and e-cigarettes contributed to an outbreak of lung injury, according to the CDC.
So, while Juul has “reset” its policies and already settled several lawsuits in other states that alleged it targeted teens, educators, parents, health care professionals and students are left to clean up the mess. Suing Juul is a step FWCS took when it joined the lawsuit earlier this year.
“By joining the Juul lawsuit, we hope to send a message to Juul and other companies that preying on children by making addictive substances appear attractive will not be tolerated,” FWCS spokesperson Krista Stockman wrote in an email following a request for comment.
Another step in the fight against nicotine addiction is for parents and educators to work together to curb the fallacy that vaping and e-cigarettes aren't as bad as smoking cigarettes. Nicotine addiction is unhealthy no matter the source.