ALCOA, Tenn. — Alcoa City Schools wants underage smoking to stop, and they're going to court about it.
“We have, over the last couple of years, especially seen an increase in JUULs and vaping e-cigarettes being used by our young folks,” said Rebecca Stone, Alcoa’s Director of Schools.
Alcoa City School Board members voted to join many other districts in a lawsuit against JULL, a company that produces vapes or e-cigarettes. Controversy has also surrounded it, and several other lawsuits have also been brought against it for allegedly targeting teens.
“We in Alcoa City Schools decided to join the lawsuit, not necessarily for any financial reimbursement," said Stone. "Even though we do hope to see some, it was just us doing what we thought was right for our young people."
The attorneys handling the case and others are from Beasley and Allen Law Firm. They’re accusing JUUL of explicitly targeting a young audience.
“So it's our belief from our investigation that JUUL was the leading cause of the e-cigarette epidemic that we see rampant among youth around the country. And that has a significant impact on schools,” said Joseph VanZandt at Beasley and Allen Law Firm.
Vaping impacts the budget, officials said. Stone said that teachers must perform extra duties during lunchtime, including watching for vaping in restrooms and in other areas where students may try to use vaping devices.
And when a student is caught vaping, it results in suspension, which interferes with education.
"Anytime a student's out of class; it’s a disruption for that child,” Stone said.
To reduce teen interest, JUUL has taken certain products off the shelves.
“So they've pulled a lot of their kid-friendly flavors off the market, so they no longer sell fruit medley or kimberlé or mango or mint. So they've pulled those flavors off the market,” said Joseph VanZandt.
The federal court date is scheduled for March 2022.