Dist. 214 may join vaping lawsuit against Juul

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 could be the latest school system to join a class-action lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs that alleges the company's marketing tactics have put the health of students at risk.

District administrators advised the school board Thursday night of their legal counsel's recommendation to join the suit against Juul Labs and other unspecified parties involved in the production, marketing, sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The school board could formally vote to join the lawsuit at the next meeting Feb. 11.

Some 250 public school districts in more than 20 states are already parties to the suit, led by the Frantz Law Group, APLC of California. That includes Maine Township High School District 207, whose board of education agreed earlier this month to become a plaintiff. Districts 207 and 214 share the same law firm, Chicago-based Franczek P.C., which will serve as local co-counsel in the litigation.

About a dozen of Franczek's other school district clients in Illinois have also signed on.

So, too, has the state of Illinois, Lake County, Park Ridge and other government agencies.

District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said there wouldn't be a cost for the district to participate in the litigation, but if successful, the Arlington Heights-based district and others across the country could get reimbursed for their costs spent trying to prevent vaping from happening on school grounds.

That has included a pilot program of placing vaping detectors in some school bathrooms in District 214, and placing public service announcements in the form of hallway posters, Schuler said.

He said the district's efforts have led to a significant decrease in on-campus vaping in the last two years. Its popularity is more pronounced among the freshman class as opposed to upperclassmen, Schuler added.

"I'm not suggesting we're gonna get millions from this thing, but they did market to kids from my perspective," Schuler said. "If we can get some resources to help offset those costs, I think it would be important to do that."

In response to allegations that Juul used deceptive marketing practices to entice minors, officials with the San Francisco-based company have said they only targeted adult smokers.

Frantz will be paid 20% of any financial settlement reached or award made by June 30 or 25% of any payout after that date. If there's no award, the district won't have to pay.

In public comments at the board meeting, Elizabeth Bauer, a Rolling Meadows High School parent and school board candidate in the April election, criticized that arrangement as "creepy."

"It's an attractive sales pitch. It's free money," Bauer said. "But it's not the right way to go about trying to get the free money."

• Daily Herald senior writer Russell Lissau contributed to this report.

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  Northwest Suburban High School Superintendent David Schuler has recommended to the school board that the district join a class-action lawsuit against Juul Labs and other parties involved in the production, marketing, sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Joe Lewnard/
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