The Boulder Valley school board voted unanimously Tuesday to hire a law firm to investigate joining a class action lawsuit against Juul Labs that alleges the company contributed to creating a youth vaping epidemic.
The law firm, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein, LLP, is asked to gather Boulder Valley-specific information and statements. If the investigation suggests the district should go forward, Superintendent Rob Anderson would have the authority to direct the firm to represent the school district in the lawsuit.
“We feel like this is the right next step,” Anderson said. “We’re in a great position to be leaders amongst the state around vaping.”
The lawsuit the district likely would join is one that includes Denver, Jefferson, Eagle and Pitkin counties, along with several other jurisdictions across the United States. Those counties are suing vape maker JUUL Labs Inc. for contributing to the rapid use of e-cigarettes by minors, as reported by Biz West.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, alleges Juul and its affiliates engaged in racketeering by trying to entice teenagers to use their products while also publicly denying the potential adverse health effects.
A passage in the suit claims a Juul representative contacted Nederland Middle-Senior High School in January 2018 to offer free classes to teach students alternative ways of dealing with stress, an offer seen as in bad faith, according to the Biz West story.
Boulder Valley School District officials previously joined parents in urging the Boulder City Council to ban the sale of flavored vaporized products and raise the age to buy tobacco and nicotine products to 21. The City Council approved the restrictions in August 2019.
Along with the potential for vaping-related lung disease, public health officials are concerned that e-cigarettes — marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes — are addicting a new generation to nicotine.
In Boulder County, teens are vaping at a higher rate than the state average — and Colorado teens are vaping more than those nationwide, based on the most recent results of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
Survey results show the national average for current use of e-cigarettes among high schoolers is 13.2%. The Colorado average is 26.2%, while the Boulder Valley average is 33. The Boulder Valley average for smoking cigarettes is 8%.
About 46% of Boulder Valley high school students reported trying e-cigarettes. Almost 90% of high school students reported seeing smoking cigarettes as risky, compared to about 50% for vaping.