TRAVERSE CITY – The Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education has unanimously voted to join a class action lawsuit against vape makers marketing products to children.
The board of directors voted 7-0 on Monday to join an ongoing class action lawsuit in which JUUL Labs, Inc., Altria and other vape manufacturers “fraudulently and deliberately marketed products to children,” according to a litigation memorandum from Superintendent John VanWagoner The blackboard. The lawsuit was initiated by a group of California school districts seeking compensation for the costs incurred by schools in fighting the vaping epidemic.
By participating in this lawsuit, TCAPS could recover state aid lost in connection with steam suspensions and exclusions, as well as the cost of purchasing and installing steam detectors. The school district could also be compensated for future costs associated with dealing with the steam epidemic.
According to the memorandum, two schools in TCAPS’s Intermediate School District and 79 schools in Michigan joined the lawsuit.
Joining the litigation does not cost TCAPS anything; If the case wins against the vape maker, 75 percent of the profit goes to the participating school districts and the remaining 25 percent covers legal fees.
The CDC and FDA are calling the teenage and young people vaping trend an “epidemic”. According to the CDC and FDA 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), more than 2 million middle and high school students will use e-cigarette products in 2021.
Nearly 85 percent of teenage vape users use flavored products, and roughly one in four uses e-cigarettes on a daily basis, according to NYTS.
In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer introduced an emergency rule in 2019 banning flavored vape products, but her ban has been made unenforceable by state courts. In 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officially pulled out of the fight to enforce the ban in search of alternative laws to fight the Michigan vaping epidemic.
Vaping in schools is an issue that TCAPS addressed in 2018 with a three-month pilot program to install vape detectors in the hallways, bathrooms, and locker rooms of Central High School and West Senior High.
The vape detectors, which are designed to detect vapors in the air and notify the administration, have been loaned to TCAPS free of charge by the manufacturer. After the pilot program ended, the vape detectors were returned to the manufacturer so TCAPS did not buy them.
A citizen, Kristen Abner, mentioned the lawsuit in the public comment area at Monday’s session. Although the masking mandate was not discussed during Monday’s meeting, many members of the public, including Abner, spoke about the mandate.
“What efforts are being made to support many students who have fallen behind? And where is your focus on education? ”Said Abner. “And why not invest the time and effort cleaning our schools instead of joining a national lawsuit against a vape maker?”
The discussion of the litigation between the board members was brief and not many questions or statements about the litigation were asked prior to the unanimous vote.
“It seems to make sense again to me to support progress at no cost from our packages or the general fund,” said trustee Erica Moon Mohr.
Trustee Sue Kelly said the fact that the vapes are flavored is an important part of what forces them to vote for the lawsuit.
“I think that’s where intentionality really appeals to me,” said Kelly, creating a situation like this and marketing it to children. “
Trustee Flournoy Humphreys said she agreed with Kelly’s points regarding the lawsuit.
“I think it’s important that we be part of this lawsuit for these reasons,” said Humphreys. “I agree with Sue.”
After the board vote on Monday, VanWagoner only needs to sign a document on behalf of the district for TCAPS to officially participate in the lawsuit.