Rim joins e-cigarette vaping lawsuit

Mar 5, 2020 | Uncategorized

Expulsions for on-campus vaping increase

By Mike Harris

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, Rim of the World Unified School District’s school board on Feb. 20 agreed to join a class action lawsuit pursuing claims for damages associated with JUUL Labs Inc. and electronic cigarette litigation.
JUUL Labs, a San Francisco-based electronic cigarette company, makes the Juul e-cigarette, which packages nicotine salts from leaf tobacco into one-time use cartridges. It has a 72 percent share of the e-cigarette market.

The decision to join the lawsuit is just the latest step for Rim schools in its fight against students vaping and using electronic cigarettes, mostly at Rim of the World High School.

This school year has seen a number of expulsion orders against students who were found vaping in Rim High’s lavatories. At the Feb. 20 board meeting, trustees were presented with four more orders for expulsion, all for vaping, and for using marijuana byproduct in the electronic vaping.

“We have lost funds due to students vaping,” said Michelle Murphy, Rim superintendent. “It is impacting us.”

Murphy said joining the class action lawsuit is only another step in the district’s fight against vaping. Other steps include installing vaping detectors in all the high school lavatories.

Trustees approved signing a contract with the Franz Law Group, APLC, to provide legal services connected with the class action lawsuit.

“So far, 35 school districts have signed up to join the lawsuit,” Murphy added.

The lawsuit will not cost Rim schools anything to join, she added. If the lawsuits against JUUL are successful, Franz Law Group costs will be paid from collecting monetary recovery on the district’s behalf.

California and Los Angeles County officials in November 2019 announced a lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. The lawsuit alleges the JUUL vaping brand targeted young people through advertising and failed to give warnings about health risks posed by using e-cigarettes with nicotine.

Although California bars the sale of the devices to people younger than 21, the lawsuit alleges electronic cigarette firms made products with nicotine that appealed to young smokers by marketing flavors such as mango, cool mint, crème brûlée and cucumber.

“We have seen an increase in the number of students vaping over the last couple of years,” said Todd Beale, associate superintendent personnel/pupil services. “It used to be regular marijuana. Now students are vaping with concentrated marijuana.”

Beale said the difference between smoking regular marijuana and vaping with marijuana concentrates, such as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is like the difference between regular blend gasoline and rocket fuel.
“It’s a lot more addictive,” he said. “You’re getting 80 to 90 percent of cannabis from the oil.”

Beale said with changes to California law, you can now get marijuana infused e-cigarettes in certain vape shops and marijuana collectives. And, even though it’s illegal for underage usage, the kids still somehow get it.

“They’ll have an older relative or an older friend buy it and get it for them,” he said.

So far, in the current school year, Rim has brought 10 expulsions before the school board and it doesn’t show signs of slowing.

“The number is up from last year,” Beale said. “We hope, as a district, we will see a decline. We are getting grant money to help and we are now officially a tobacco-free school site. We have had drug dogs come in, and brought in an outside consultant to provide for an assembly discussion, and done parent training.”

Beale said most parents are shocked when they find out their son or daughter is facing expulsion because of vaping on campus.

“Students don’t do it at home, so parents don’t see it,” he said. “The parents react pretty quickly to this.”

Students, as part of the program, must complete some form of drug and alcohol counseling.

“There have been a lot of things we’ve started this year,” Beale added. “We are getting knowledge out to parents and students about the effects. It significantly slows down development of the adolescent brain.”

Beale said the majority of students involved in vaping on campus have been male, but there have been some female students. And, while the majority of vaping incidents have occurred at Rim High, school officials have seen some incidents at Mary Putnam Henck Middle School.

Rim has been coordinating efforts with the sheriff’s Twin Peaks station.

“They have been a great asset for us,” Beale said. “Sheriff’s Twin Peaks Capt. Don Lupear wants to work with the district, and he has been very involved.

“It’s too soon to say if we are winning the battle,” he added. “But Rim is taking aggressive efforts to get it stopped.”



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