At the first Madison County Board of Education meeting of the new year, the decision was made to begin to process of bringing litigation against Juul and other e-cigarette companies.
Erin Stewart, community education director for Madison County Schools, said in December, vaping had become "a popular alternative to cigarettes and these products are easily accessible to kids, especially high schoolers," and that the district fights the vaping issue regularly.
The Madison County school board has now joined with multiple other counties in Kentucky in their lawsuit against Juul, including Bullitt county which was the first county in Kentucky to file a lawsuit on Dec. 3. The Kentucky counties are all using Ronald E. Johnson of Hendy, Johnson, Vaughn, Emery in Louisville as their attorney.
"Electronic cigarettes have become common place despite a state law that prohibits them," said Madison County school board counsel Jerry Gilbert.
According to the National Institutes of Health 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, one in four 12th graders reported that they had vaped nicotine in the past month. One in five 10th graders and one in 10 8th graders reported that they had vaped nicotine in the past month.
The increases from 2018 to 2019 among 12th graders who vaped marijuana in the last 30 days was the "second largest, single-year increases ever tracked by MTG for any substance in its 45-year history," according to the NIH's MTF survey. Nicotine vaping increasing from 2017 to 2018 ranks as first.
Gilbert explained the Madison County Board of Education is seeking an order to stop the company from marketing the product to younger generations. He said one way that they do this is by the flavors they produce.
According to a previous Register article, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky's President and CEO Ben Chandler agrees that the flavors of e-cigarettes are "something that must be dealt with." He explained the flavors often times have to do with fruits, bubblegum and other sweets and they have names such as "unicorn," which appeal to the younger generation. Chandler believes, if these flavors were taken away, the use of the product in youth would decline.
Gilbert said the Madison County Schools district is having to devote more time and resources towards the education of their students about the health risks associated with vaping, as well as disciplining their students who use it on the school premises. Because of this, there are financial implications in the lawsuit. Gilbert assured The Register there would be no taxpayer funds used to fund the lawsuit, instead it would be paid by any money awarded during the suit.
Gilbert explained the process was just getting started, but he believes the school board addressing the issue at the first meeting of the year is proactive in terms of taking care of the students.