Okemos High is a potential litigant in vape lawsuit

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An e-cigarette, an electronic cigarette that contains the addictive chemical nicotine, along with other chemicals,comes in many different flavors such as lemon mint. Photo by Jenna Malinowski.

Okemos High Schools is considering joining a nationwide litigation against JUUL and other vaping product manufacturers. Over 100 schools in Michigan have joined, claiming these products were marketed to children and therefore, caused damages to schools. 

Lawyers Piotr M. Matusiak, from Thrun Law Firm, and William Shinoff, from Frantz Law Group presented the existing litigation to the Okemos Board of Education on February 28. 

“It’s a litigation against vaping companies that says that they have fraudulently marketed their products to children and in turn has resulted in damages to schools, and so the litigation tries to obtain money for schools in terms of cost they have incurred related to vaping as well as costs for dealing with vaping issues in the future,” said Matusiak.

Not only is this problem systemic, but the CDC also refers to it as an “epidemic.” According to the FDA’s 2021 data survey, 11.3% of high school students in the United States use e-cigarettes equating to 2 million youth across the country who are using these highly addictive products. That same survey found that many teenagers who use them have a strong dependence on nicotine.In Michigan, 20.8% of high school students use vaping products. It is even estimated that 213,000 kids who are currently 18 and younger in Michigan will die prematurely from smoking.

Matusiak said some examples of these costs include smoke and vape detectors schools have installed to curb vape use at school and educational resources that aid addicted students. 

“We certainly see an increase in student use of vaping in the last 10 years and want to make sure that we have the resources for students to help make healthy choices,” said Okemos High School superintendent John Hood. “If this was advertised or marketed to them, we want to get them the help that they need so they can not have an addictive substance that can impact their long-term health.”

This litigation hopes to not only provide resources for affected students but to also punish the manufacturer for alleged damages.

“As a school district we’ve certainly seen an increase in vapes at school,” said Hood. “We certainly see opportunity with this lawsuit to hold JUUL and others accountable and help be a part of the remediation of that problem that’s now systemic.”

Matusiak and Thrun Law Firm has been providing information to potential clients across Michigan such as Okemos High School and referring those who are interested to Shinoff and Frantz Law Group, a California law firm that is leading the litigation nationwide. In its efforts to hold these manufacturers accountable, the law firm made this statement through its website.

“The popular e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL is under legal fire for deceptive marketing tactics that have put countless people across the country at risk of serious health consequences. Not only has JUUL been accused of intentionally trying to sell its nicotine-laden vape devices to children and teens, but it has also been accused of knowingly misrepresenting the safety – or lack of safety – of its products.”

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