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King County sues JUUL over teen vaping epidemic

Juul continues to catch flack. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

King County is taking its fight against teenage vaping straight to one of the country’s largest producers, filing a lawsuit against JUUL.

Washington’s first vaping lawsuit filed by Pierce County cop

The lawsuit comes after the state banned flavored vaping products for 120 days last week.

King County, wanting to represent counties across the country, says JUUL is a major cause of the teen vaping epidemic.

“JUUL has compelled a generation of youth, who were never cigarette smokers, into nicotine addiction and put them at risk for severe lung injury or other health harms resulting from aerosol inhalation,” the lawsuit says.

The county wants JUUL Labs to pay damages and fund preventative education and addiction treatment.

Last month, a King County teen was the first person in the state to be diagnosed with a severe lung disease associated with vaping.

According to the lawsuit, between 2011 and 2015, e-cigarette use among high school and middle school students increased 900 percent nationally.   Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use increased 78 percent — or 1.5 million — among high school students.

As for King County, the lawsuit says one in every four King County high school seniors reported vaping in the last 30 days.

Vaping: A growing epidemic with very little regulation

“In the largest school district in King County, Seattle Public Schools, 90 percent percent of tobacco and nicotine violations during the 2017-2018 school year were for vaping, and over 60 percent of those violations were for JUUL use specifically,” the lawsuit says.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the 2018 rise in nicotine vaping was the largest for any substance recorded in 44 years.

The lawsuit claims that JUUL’s corporate affiliate, Philip Morris, knew that youth smoking was key to the tobacco industry’s long-term success.

An internal document from Philip Morris cited in the lawsuit says, “It is important to know as much as possible about teenage smoking patterns and attitudes. Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens.”

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