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Arizona school districts suing e-cigarette maker Juul

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

PHOENIX — Several school districts in Arizona are joining others across the country to sue the biggest name in vaping.

At least four of the state’s school districts have or are considering joining a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul. Among them are Tolleson Union High School District and Alhambra Elementary School District.

Tucson Unified School District filed its own lawsuit against Juul last month in the Tucson division of the U.S. District Court of Arizona.

Phoenix Union High School District is the latest to join a national lawsuit against Juul. The district’s governing board voted unanimously last week to authorize the district to proceed with the filing of the lawsuit, which claims Juul has gotten students addicted to vaping and has placed a burden on schools.

“They have used deceptive advertising,” Phoenix Union Governing Board member Steve Gallardo said about Juul. “They have targeted underage students.”

Gallardo added schools “are having to pay the price” for students getting addicted to Juul’s vaping products.

He said schools are having to buy vaping sensors to place in hallways and bathrooms, and they’re using more resource to help students who’ve fallen behind because of their vaping addiction.

The lawsuit claims Juul designed its products to appeal to youth and misrepresented the amount of nicotine in their devices. It goes on to say the e-cigarette maker “successfully created a misleading impressing” that its products were healthy.

Juul has denied marketing to minors. Last week, it announced it’s no longer selling mint flavored products in the United States.

The move came after several national studies were released e-cigarette use among youth in the U.S. One study found mint was one of the most popular flavors for high school students.

A national survey also released last week found more teens than ever are using e-cigarettes. About 28% of high school students and 11% of middle school students said they’ve used e-cigarettes within the past month.

In total, 5.3 million youth said they’re currently using e-cigarettes, up from last year’s 3.6 million.

In Arizona, the most recent Arizona Youth Survey released last year found that 27.7% of eighth graders reported they’ve used e-cigarettes or other vaping devices on one or more occasion. That figure was 39.3% for 10th graders and 45.8% for high school seniors.

Saying youth vaping “has grown to epidemic proportions,” the Arizona School Boards Association passed a resolution last month to support the nationwide lawsuit against Juul.

Steven Chapman, the association’s president, pushed back on Juul’s claim that it has not marketed to minors.

“There’s a lot of evidence showing that they were clearly marketing to younger individuals,” he said.

“We see the effects of that,” he added. “Even in my own high school district last year we had about 400 incidents in which students were caught with some sort of vaping device.”

Chapman is also a governing board member of the Tolleson Union High School District, which is set to vote on Tuesday to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

He said he encourages other school districts to join the lawsuit if they’ve also seen a growing number of students who are vaping in their schools.

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