Legal firms were in Hawkins County recently seeking to cut the county in on the latest legal cash cow, the vaping industry.
It’s been more than 20 years since Big Tobacco was relieved of more than $200 billion in the tobacco master settlement agreement, the largest class-action settlement in history between the four largest American tobacco companies and the attorneys general of 46 states.
Other class-action suits have also done well, including the opioid litigation wherein Purdue Pharma has paid out billions in some 2,400 lawsuits consolidated in multi-district litigation.
The Enron class action brought in $7.2 billion, the Worldcom Securities suit $6.2 billion, Exxon-Valdez $5 billion, the Dow Corning breast implant litigation $3.2 billion, and the list goes on and on. Now, vaping lawsuits are piling up.
Across the country various legal firms are jumping on board with class-action suits arguing that various e-cigarette companies engaged in false and deceptive sales, marketing, labeling and advertising; targeted young people who have become addicted; and produced a product that was harmful, in some cases delivering nicotine several times higher than from regular cigarettes.
The Hawkins County Board of Education will take a month to consider whether it will join a suit lining up Tennessee school systems as plaintiffs.
The firm is currently working on a suit against two vape manufacturers, claiming they intentionally marketed their products to children.
What’s that got to do with school districts? Very little.
“Schools are being left in the unfortunate situation of trying to find the best way to deal with” the issue, said a spokesman for the legal firm. “This case is about providing your district the resources to be able to battle this issue. We’re looking at items to help support deterrents of vaping on your campuses, support for the children who are currently dealing with the addiction to this product, and then educating children about why they should not be using this product.”
Among the anti-vaping resources the spokesman suggested could be part of proceeds from this lawsuit are the installation of vape detectors in bathrooms and funding to provide additional supervision staff. The lawsuit is also seeking funding for school systems to increase support for children with vaping addiction.
Vaping allegedly harms individuals, not institutions, nor is it the responsibility of school districts to prevent children from picking up the habit. They should ban vaping on campus because it potentially harms users and others subjected to it, but that’s an enforcement issue.
The law firm points out the obvious, that “This product has 10 times the amount of nicotine as a cigarette, so it’s highly addictive. When you’re dealing with children, and you’re dealing with nicotine addiction, there comes social and emotional issues. What this case is doing is also providing districts with the money to hire additional counselors to be able to help these kids deal with this issue.”
The firm says 13 state school districts have signed up. But that’s because they get most of the money if the suits are successful, and lose nothing if they are not.
At base, they’re being used.