LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- The Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to file a lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices and products.
The district is the second school district in the state to do so.
Bullitt County was the first, filing at the beginning of the week.
“Fayette County Public Schools is recognized as a leader on issues of health, safety and wellness, not only in the Commonwealth, but also across the nation,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “It is wholly appropriate that we continue to lead in this space.”
The district says it is suing because the companies target students with products and ads, which have led to an unprecedented rise in nicotine addiction among kids.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 6.2 million young people are using tobacco and of those, 85% are using e-cigarettes.
FCPS says it has seen an increase in e-cigarette use among students.
The district says it has been taking an educational approach to vaping rather than a punitive one by teaching families and teenagers about vaping’s dangers. FCPS also says its Safety Advisory Council’s recommendation to add full-time nurses in high schools and increase mental health professionals was designed to help limit students’ risk taking.
The district says the Fayette County student code of conduct bans the use and possession of e-cigarettes in schools, which is punishable by the same disciplinary action as having any other tobacco product.
First, the district says its response includes confiscating the products and offering smoking cessation programs. Trafficking or repeated problems results in an out of school suspension.
A FCPS spokeswoman says the district doesn’t keep separate data about e-cigarettes, but says disciplinary incidents involving all tobacco rose by 310 percent from 2015 to 2018:
- 2015-16: 98 events with 11 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2016-17: 121 events with 6 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2017-18: 225 events with 32 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2018-19 402 events with 50 resulting in out-of-school suspension.
- 2019-20: 116 events with 6 resulting in out-of-school suspension to date during the 2019-20 school year.
“The targeting of school children by these companies, both with their products and marketing campaigns, has led to an unprecedented rise in nicotine addiction among our young people,” said Caulk. “As a champion for children, I was compelled to ask our school board to take this extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit to stop the insidious marketing practices of these companies and demand resources to fight this epidemic.”
You can read the board’s resolution approving the suit below:
RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING LITIGATION AGAINST JUUL AND OTHER MANUFACTURERS, DISTRIBUTORS AND SELLERS OF ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES AND VAPING PRODUCTS
WHEREAS, there has been a significant increase in the number of Fayette County Public Schools students facing disciplinary consequences for the use of tobacco products; and
WHEREAS, this upward trend parallels the dramatic increase in the number of under-aged students using electronic cigarettes or vaping products; and
WHEREAS, experts have warned that youth vaping is at epidemic levels in our nation; and
WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surgeon General has found that vaping products are unsafe for children and teenagers; and
WHEREAS, nicotine use as a teen has been linked to the risk of nicotine addiction as adults; and
WHEREAS, we agree with health experts who believe that the marketing practices of JUUL and similar companies has targeted children and teenagers; and
WHEREAS, on September 9, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent JUUL a warning letter alleging improper marketing practices; and
WHEREAS, Fayette County Public Schools employees invest a significant amount of time and resources confiscating vape-related contraband, providing counseling and educational services, and offering cessation support to students related to the use of vaping products; and
WHEREAS, more serious vaping-related offenses such as trafficking or repeated infractions has led to both in- and out-of-school suspensions, which interferes with student learning; and
WHEREAS, the use and possession of vaping products by students causes a significant interruption of the educational process; and
WHEREAS, those responsible for negatively impacting the health, welfare and education of our students should be held accountable and required to provide resources to combat vaping; and
WHEREAS, as leaders in education and advocates for our students, Fayette County Public Schools is compelled to take legal action against manufactures, distributors and sellers of electronic cigarettes and vaping products in order to protect the health, welfare and education of our students.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT PROCLAIMED, that the members of the Fayette County Board of Education hereby authorize attorney Ronald Johnson, and his law firm, Hendy Johnson Vaughn & Emery of Louisville, Kentucky to file a civil action against any appropriate parties to compensate FCPS for damages suffered by the district and its students as a result of the manufacture, marketing, sale and use of electronic cigarettes and/or vaping products, and to seek any other appropriate relief, including injunctive relief, to protect FCPS students from vaping manufacturers and distributors.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of the Fayette County Board of Education further authorizes the superintendent to sign all necessary contracts and other related documents on behalf of FCPS in the pursuit of any civil action.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this proclamation be spread on the official minutes of the Board of Education.
Recommendation: A motion is in order to:
“adopt the resolution authorizing litigation against JUUL and other manufacturers, distributors and sellers of electronic cigarettes and vaping products.”