School district administrators should always prioritize protecting the health and welfare of students. That’s why leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District deserve accolades for filing a lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc., the country’s largest manufacturer of electronic vaping gadgets.
“We took this step to hold Juul accountable for its role in creating an epidemic that affects the health of our students — disrupting their learning and taking time and money away from our core mission of educating students,” explains Superintendent Austin Beutner in a guest column for The Washington Post.
Several other California school districts have joined to comprise a class-action against the vaping giant. All claim vaping harms their student populations by increasing absenteeism.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a state suit against Juul for harming children. North Carolina also plans to sue.
“Students tell us that they have seen their peers in serious need of help due to nicotine addiction,” Beutner wrote. “They have seen their peers missing school as a direct result of vaping, either through illness or expulsion. They have seen their previously upbeat friends become sullen and angry, withdrawing from sports, clubs and other activities they previously loved.”
Beutner laments that smoking rates among teens had dropped from 28% in 2000 to 8% in 2017. Then came Juul and its proliferation of flavored vape products packaged like computer flash drives. Today, 30% of teens in Los Angeles County report trying e-cigarettes.
“The vaping epidemic has reversed one of the great modern public health success stories,” Beutner says.
A visit to the campus of any middle school or high school reveals an identical epidemic in Colorado. Student vaping is overt and rampant. Children are addicted, ill and risking their lives to enrich corporate moguls who could not care less.
In addition to nicotine vaping, Colorado educators contend with teens consuming marijuana in vaping products, food, beverages, pipes and cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration in October issued a formal warning against THC vaping, linking the activity to a deadly lung condition that had caused 18 deaths among people younger than 35.
The Colorado Department of Education reported marijuana suspensions increased by 18% in the 2016-17 school year. The state Division of Criminal Justice reports a substantial increase in teen marijuana problems, going from 17% of all contacts in the 2012-13 school year to about 25% in more recent years.
More than 3,000 Colorado students are suspended from school each year for marijuana violations.
Just as Juul hooked students with candy-flavored vape juice, Colorado’s marijuana industry targeted children with drug-laced gummy bears and other products attractive to youths. Both industries insist they now discourage youth consumption, but their protestations and reforms are too little and too late to reverse the lingering cultural contamination of our schools.
Education officials and state attorneys general are supposed to defend the mental and physical health of kids. They should seek legal redress, in the form of punitive financial compensation, from companies that profit when children get hooked on their drugs.