SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Unified School District is suing Juul Labs, Inc., for marketing its e-cigarettes and related products to children, joining four other Southern California school districts in targeting the vaping company in court.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Diego County Superior Court alleges negligence and nuisance on the part of the San Francisco-based e-cigarette company.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by schools districts in Los Angeles, Glendale, Compton and Anaheim.
San Diego Unified, which is the second largest school district in California serving more than 121,000 students, alleges Juul's advertising campaigns targeting young people have caused an e-cigarette "epidemic," which has "severely impacted" the school district by interfering "with normal school operations."
The district also alleges e-cigarette use has caused a financial loss to the district, as it's been forced to spend money on outreach and education programs, vape detectors, video surveillance and staff to monitor e-cigarette use among students.
Student absences due to vaping-related issues have also hurt the district financially, as student attendance is tied directly to revenue the district receives from the state, according to the lawsuit.
The district's court papers say nicotine use has dwindled among youths when it comes to cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and other related products, but has skyrocketed when it comes to e-cigarettes.
"In 2018, more than one in four high school students in the United States reported using a tobacco product in the past 30 days, a dramatic increase from just one year before," the complaint says.
"Our district is in the business of educating students in a healthy and safe environment," SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten said. "This lawsuit supports district goals by holding Juul accountable for its harmful marketing practices and unsafe products."
In response to the lawsuit, a Juul Labs spokesperson told FOX 5 the allegations were "without merit." In a statement released to FOX 5, the spokesperson said, "Our customer base is the world's 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit."