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FREDERICK, MD – Frederick County has joined a class-action lawsuit against electronic cigarette manufacturers to hold them accountable for allegedly marketing an addictive product to minors. County Executive Jan Gardner this week signed onto the litigation against Juul Labs, Inc. and Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and a 35% stockholder of Juul. The lawsuit alleges misleading practices designed to attract teenagers and pre-teens through the use of flavored nicotine products and targeted advertising.
“We need to hold companies accountable for promoting these dangerous products to our children,” said County Executive Jan Gardner. “Young people are being lured into vaping with flavors like cotton candy, strawberry milk, and popcorn. We must keep these toxins out of the hands of our youth.”
Use of electronic smoking devices, or vaping, by U.S. high school students grew nearly 80% from 2017 to 2018, according to the National Adolescent Drug Trends report. Vaping’s dramatic rise in popularity comes as cigarette smoking by teens has declined significantly over the last several decades. National data show that 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students had vaped within the previous 30 days. Teens list three main reasons for vaping: the mistaken belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of tobacco; the availability of flavors; and because a friend or family member used the devices.
“The Board of Education of Frederick County desires to maintain a safe, healthy and productive environment free of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs,” said schools Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban. “Frederick County Public Schools supports the decision of County Executive Jan Gardner to join a class action lawsuit against Juul, whose nicotine based e-cigarette campaigns have targeted our students by offering fruit flavors and a sleek look. Vaping with Juul’s e-cigarettes is not only a major health concern for our students, it is also a distraction in our school environment.”
Frederick County has retained the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd in the multidistrict litigation, which is being litigated in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. The firm also represents other jurisdictions across the United States in this case, including Montgomery County, Md.
The lawsuit seeks damages and abatement costs for the harm incurred as a result of deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices in violation of federal and state laws.