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LI school district is one of three in U.S. suing vaping manufacturer Juul

A selection of the popular Juul brand vaping

A selection of the popular Juul brand vaping supplies on display in the window of a vaping store in New York on March 24, 2018. Photo Credit: TNS/Richard B. Levine

A Long Island school district is one of three nationwide that are suing electronic cigarette maker Juul, asserting the vaping giant is addicting students to nicotine and forcing schools to pour time and money into fighting an epidemic of addiction.

The Three Village Central School District argues in court documents that Juul has pointedly marketed its nicotine products to youths and forced schools to spend money dealing with the fallout and educating students on the dangers.

Also taking Juul to court are the school districts in St. Charles, Missouri, and Olathe, Kansas.

Juul did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

More than 6,000 students attend the Three Village school district, which serves Setauket, Stony Brook, Poquott and surrounding areas.

"Juul succeeded in addicting a generation of youth to nicotine," said the 88-page Long Island lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The increased use of Juul products on school grounds has resulted in increased student suspensions and absences, the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit accuses Juul of copying the methods of tobacco companies in creating "a product and marketing strategy that sought to portray its e-cigarette products as trendsetting, stylish and used by the type of people teenagers look up to."

Juul has denied marketing to young people and has promised to no longer promote its e-cigarettes in print, digital and television ads. 

Schools across the country, the lawsuit added, have been forced to install cameras near restrooms, remove restroom doors, limit the number of students in restrooms and assign teachers and administrators to monitor restrooms.

In addition, schools have had to create student-parent vaping information centers, specialized student counseling and after-school programs, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit did not specify which actions were taken by the Three Village District, and school officials declined to comment Tuesday. A letter posted on the district website Tuesday called vaping a national epidemic that "has had a direct and grave impact on our local school community." Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and school board president William F. Connors Jr. signed the letter. 

"The exponential rise in vaping is one we fear will not cease unless we stand up as a nation to defend the health and safety of our students," the letter said. "Without such a stand, our district and many others will continue on the current trajectory of allocating funds and resources into initiatives to combat this widespread issue, potentially to no avail."

The lawsuits come as schools and public officials battle the rising popularity of vaping, which has been linked to a rising number of deaths and illnesses. Nearly 1,100 people have been diagnosed with lung illnesses associated with vaping, and there have been more than 20 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies.

On Tuesday, state officials announced that a 17-year-old Bronx man who died Friday was the first New Yorker to die of a vaping-related lung illness. 

Also Tuesday, at Great Neck South High School, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer detailed a plan that would ban flavored e-cigarette liquids and called for a national education campaign on the dangers of teen vaping. He expressed support for the lawsuits.

New York, Michigan and Rhode Island have banned several flavored vapes. Retailers Walmart and Kroger have announced they will stop selling e-cigarettes.

Last week, Massapequa resident Shawn Hochhauser filed a lawsuit against Juul, arguing the company hooked him on flavored e-cigarettes when he was 15 through deceptive marketing and advertising. He is 19 now.

With Robert Brodsky and David Olson

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