A lawsuit filed this month by Skagit County alleges that deceptive practices by the makers of electronic cigarettes have led to widespread use in vaping and nicotine addiction among teens.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, claims that the defendants created flavored vaping products to appeal to youths, and used marketing tactics to “ensnare minors into nicotine addiction, including by explicitly adopting tactics prohibited from Big Tobacco.”
The defendants are listed as JUUL Labs, Inc., Eonsmoke LLC, Altria Group, Inc., and Nu Mark LLC.
Meanwhile, the Concrete School Board voted Thursday to join a similar lawsuit filed in October by the La Conner School District.
“Even though we are a small, rural school, we are impacted by these products,” Concrete School District Superintendent Wayne Barrett said. “It is something that’s going to impact every school district in the country, and already has.”
The districts argue that because e-cigarettes come in bright colors and in a variety of flavors, they are marketed specifically toward youths.
“It was absolutely marketed to kids,” Barrett said. “And that’s wrong.”
The school district lawsuit was transferred Oct. 24 to U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, according to court documents.
Vaping use among eighth-graders in Skagit County is higher than the statewide average, and over a two-year period vaping use among 10th-graders increased from 11% to 18%, Skagit County’s lawsuit alleges.
In April, Skagit County approved a ban on public smoking and vaping to address the rise in youth vaping, and has spent “substantial time and resources” to educate the public about the dangers of the practice, the county’s lawsuit states.
The State Board of Health approved Oct. 9 an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vaping products.
Vaping poses a greater addiction risk than cigarette smoking because “the only natural stopping point with pod-based vaping devices comes when the user reaches the end of a pod, which contains roughly as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes,” the county lawsuit states.
In the lawsuit, an Anacortes music teacher was reported as saying that students who started using vaping products experienced shortness of breath, inability to hold notes, anxiety, depression, concentration problems and acid indigestion.
The county lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive/equitable relief, including to fund prevention and addiction treatment.
— Skagit Valley Herald reporter Kera Wanielista contributed to this story.