Red Lion school district joins lawsuit against vape maker Juul Labs

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
E-cigarette maker Juul Labs said Thursday that it will halt sales of its best-selling mint-flavored vaping pods.

Red Lion Area School districted filed a complaint against Juul Labs on Tuesday, alleging the company's advertisements for its vaping products targeted minors and harmed Red Lion students. 

The complaint marks a move from the district to join a national class action lawsuit that schools across the country have joined, according to Red Lion's chief legal and operations officer Greg Monskie. Monskie said the case will be handled by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and will not be heard by Pennsylvania courts. 

Juul Labs is a multi-billion dollar electronic cigarette company in the U.S. The complaint alleges that as a result of the company's advertisements, many Red Lion students became addicted to nicotine, leading the district to devote more resources to addressing Juul use in schools. 

The complaint demands monetary damages of $75,000, but Monskie said the figure was just a minimum requirement to join the class action lawsuit. He said Red Lion is not seeking any monetary damages. 

"It's about doing the right thing," he said. 

In 2019, Juul Labs officials announced the company was halting all U.S. advertisements following national backlash against vaping. The company has since pulled several flavors that Red Lion's complaint named as being popular among minors, including mango, mint and creme. 

"We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, legislators, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes," a company statement read. 

Monskie denied comment on this issue. Red Lion's complaint alleges that officials and other companies affiliated with Juul continued to promote its products and fraudulently denied that its marketing targeted young people.  

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Between 2011 and 2015, e-cigarette use among high school and middle school students increased 900%, according to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report referenced in the complaint.

However, in recent years, the backlash and increased information about the impacts of e-cigarettes have reduced use among minors. According to an FDA report, between 2019 and 2020, e-cigarette use among young people dropped by 1.8 million, though the number of current young users still remains "concerningly high" at 3.6 million. 

Red Lion School Board President Christine Crone said board members do not comment on district litigation. Red Lion attorneys and Superintendent Scott Deisley could not be reached Wednesday for comment.