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Quakertown school district to sue vaping manufacturers

The Bucks County district is expected to join a number of school systems nationally that have sued over a growing student vaping problem.

JUUL products advertised for sale at this store on South Street in Philadelphia on Sept. 26, 2019.
JUUL products advertised for sale at this store on South Street in Philadelphia on Sept. 26, 2019.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The Quakertown school board has authorized litigation against e-cigarette manufacturers, joining school districts around the country taking legal action in response to the rapid rise of vaping among students.

Lawyers for the Bucks County school district plan to file a lawsuit next week. Other school districts in the county may join the suit, Quakertown officials said.

While a number of school districts have sued e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs amid mounting vaping-related illnesses and deaths, Stephen Corr, a lawyer representing Quakertown, said he believes this lawsuit will be the first by a Pennsylvania district.

A resolution approved by the Quakertown board last week said the district “has and continues to experience significant problems with student use of Juul e-cigarettes" that “has created a substantial and ongoing interruption of and disturbance to its educational mission."

It also says use of e-cigarettes “has resulted in the diversion of substantial resources in an attempt to abate and prevent such use” and “poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of its students.”

» READ MORE: Vaping is blamed for mounting deaths, lung injuries. Here’s what it’s doing to kids’ brains.

Earlier this school year, a high school student became unconscious after sharing a vaping device containing THC in a bathroom stall with other students, district officials said. They said a similar incident happened last year.

Juul did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. On its website, the company acknowledges youth vaping “has become a serious and urgent problem” and says it has taken “a series of escalating steps to combat youth access, appeal, and use of vapor products,” including working to implement stricter age-verification standards.

In a survey of Quakertown seniors two years ago, 37% said they had vaped, superintendent William Harner said at a school board meeting last Thursday.

As the district surveys seniors again this year, “I would imagine we’re going to be close to one out of every two students," Harner said. Vaping is “a growing problem at the high school,” he said.

» READ MORE: Vaping risks scare local teens, but many are too addicted to quit

Corr said he expects other school districts in the area to follow Quakertown in considering litigation.

Los Angeles school officials on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against Juul, seeking compensation for districts across California. Other school systems that have sued Juul include ones in Missouri, Kansas, and New York state.