Youth vaping is an epidemic in the United States and Marion County is no exception. For 11th grade students in Marion County, where Silver Falls School District is located, the rate of students vaping within a 30-day period increased from 8.2% in 2017 to 13.1% in 2019.
Many youth also do not understand the dangers of vaping, that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and that vaping poses serious health risks. This dramatic rise in youth vaping rates and the lack of knowledge of the risks are direct results of Defendants’ ad-campaigns and marketing strategies designed to target teenagers and youth.
The rising number of teenagers who are addicted to nicotine is a public health crisis. Nicotine is a neurotoxin that poses a particularly potent threat to the adolescent brain, as it can damage brain development and have lasting consequences for cognitive ability and mental health. Research has also shown that adolescent use of nicotine biologically primes the brain for addiction to other drugs later in life, including alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and that these changes are long term.
“We’ve seen increases each year in the number of students found vaping on district property,” said Dan Busch, Assistant Superintendent for Silver Falls School District. “Just in the first two months of this new school year we’ve had numerous incidents, including a student in one of our K-5 Elementary schools.”
The lawsuit alleges that JUUL and Altria violated the federal RICO statute and that Defendants created and contributed to a public nuisance on school grounds. The lawsuit seeks damages as well as abatement. Defendants’ conduct has caused our students to suffer significant and ongoing harms—harms that will continue well into the future as these children age. As alleged in the complaint, Silver Falls School District believes that the Defendants should help fund public health efforts to address the youth vaping epidemic that they created.
Of the Silver Falls School District School Board’s decision to file the lawsuit, Board Chair Jennifer Traeger said, “We were unanimous in supporting the effort to protect our students from companies who knowingly target our students with products that are harmful.”
The district has retained Keller Rohrback partners Dean Kawamoto and Yoona Park as outside counsel in this litigation. Keller Rohrback is a nationally recognized law firm based in Seattle with offices in Portland and Phoenix that routinely litigates against the largest corporate defendants in the country on behalf of local governments. Keller Rohrback also represents King County, Skagit County, Seattle Public Schools, Portland Public Schools and the Milwaukee Public Schools in their suits against JUUL and the other defendants for creating a youth vaping crisis.
Defendants include JUUL Labs, Inc. and the Altria Group, Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris USA and one of the major investors in JUUL Labs. These defendants also initiated youth-oriented social media campaigns like “Doit4juul” and the viral “Vaporized” campaign complete with launch parties, social media influencers, and billboards in Time Square.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, and will be part of the multidistrict litigation in San Francisco before Judge William Orrick III, where other cases from across the nation against JUUL and other defendants are pending.
Silver Falls School District serves over 3600 students in grades K-12 in the cities of Silverton and Scotts Mills, and their surrounding communities. For more information about Silver Falls School District, visit SilverFallsSchools.org.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact:
Derek McElfresh – Communications, Silver Falls School District, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yoona Park – Attorney, Keller Rohrback, email@example.com