Tomahawk to join other Wisconsin school districts in national vaping lawsuit
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk will join numerous other districts in the state in a national mass action lawsuit against electronic cigarette companies.
About 50 Wisconsin schools are anticipated to sign onto the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed by California-based firm Frantz Law Group, alleges that Juul and other electronic cigarette companies use marketing tactics to target youth in an effort to get them to “vape,” or use electronic cigarettes. The suit also points to the health detriments associated with nicotine use.
Participation in the litigation comes at no cost to districts.
In the event that a settlement is reached, participating districts would receive funds to be used to combat vaping by students.
Funds would be allocated to the installation “vape detectors” in bathrooms, which cost about $5,000 per bathroom, according to Frantz Law Group.
Salaries for supervisors and counselors, as well as monies for educational programs for students and families regarding the dangers of vaping, would also be included in a potential settlement.
Although conventional cigarette use among Wisconsin high school students has declined over recent years, the number of students using electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, has increased.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), e-cigarette use among Wisconsin high school students increased 154% between 2014 and 2018. In 2014, about 8% of Wisconsin high school students were using e-cigarettes. That number increased to 20% in 2018.
Roughly 11% of high school students reported smoking conventional cigarettes in 2014. In 2018, fewer than 5% of students reported doing so, according to a DHS survey.
School board votes to join lawsuit
School District of Tomahawk Administrator Terry Reynolds provided information on the litigation during the district’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, July 13.
Reynolds explained that the district’s liability attorney reached out to districts they represent, including Tomahawk, about signing onto the lawsuit. Participating districts must fill out and submit a questionnaire regarding electronic cigarette use in schools.
“If we receive some funds to help education-based information for our students, I think it’s a win situation,” Reynolds stated in recommending that the district move forward with joining the litigation.
A motion to approve the district’s participation in the lawsuit passed unanimously.