SDUHSD advises legal counsel to settle with Juul

The SDUHSD Board of Trustees advised their legal counsel to settle a 2020 lawsuit against JUUL, an electronic cigarette company, at a board meeting on March 15.

On Jan. 7, 2020, SDUHSD joined many school districts across the United States in suing JUUL, alleging that JUUL marketed to minors and disrupted learning environments. The company was forced by the Food and Drug Administration to temporarily stop product sales in 2022 and since then, JUUL has provided billions of dollars in settlements to 33 states, over 10,000 plaintiffs, and some school districts.

And it’s possible that SDUHSD will become one of them. In the board meeting, Board President Rimga Viskanta reported from closed session that “the board, by 5-0 vote, instructed district council to settle the matter regarding JUUL Labs Inc. marketing, sales, and practices and products liability litigation.”

For Viskanta, settling could be a way to provide additional resources for SDUHSD to address problems such as vaping on campus.

“School districts can receive settlement dollars that can be used for a variety of purposes including to help students learn healthy habits, boosting their potential for learning and overall well-being while in school and beyond.”

To some students, settling this case could send a counterproductive message. Darmin Tarasewicz (10), a member of the TPHS Peer Assistance Listeners, said that settling “demotes the issue” and “sends a message that this is not a big priority for the board.”

PALS works on campus to promote healthy habits for students’ physical and mental health, which includes discouraging vaping.

Regardless of whether or not the lawsuit is settled, joining this case was “the right thing” to do, according to TPHS Principal Rob Coppo.

“At least we’re standing for something, trying to be part of the solution rather than just throwing up our hands and saying ‘well what can you do? You can’t fight these big corporations.’ Yes we can,” he said.

Some students agreed.

“I think it shows [students that use nicotine] that ‘my district is cracking down, I might need to figure this out and find somebody that can help me with this situation,’” Evan Patrick (12), a member of PALS, said.

These messages were reiterated by Trustee Katrina Young, who hopes students are affected by the lawsuit’s message.

“We care about them and want to educate them of the dangers of smoking and vaping. Hopefully by standing up to companies like JUUL, we can inspire students to do the same by making healthy choices themselves.”

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