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Districts receive combined $311K from settlement with Juul

A Juul sign hangs in the front window of a bodega convenience store in New York City in 2022. Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases brought by about 10,000 plaintiffs related to its vaping products. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Juul said that it has secured an equity investment to fund it. The company has been buffeted by lawsuits and chances that it would seek bankruptcy protection, or a buyer, were elevated last month as Juul announced hundreds of layoffs and secured new financing to continue operations. AP Photo

School districts across Butler County received more than $311,000 from their involvement in a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Juul Labs that sought damages for the use of vaping products among students.

Though some districts have yet to determine how the funding will be used, others confirmed their intentions to use the dollars to stop vaping on school grounds — an issue that has sent students in at least one district to the hospital and brought concerned parents to school board meetings in at least one other.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, who was then state attorney general, announced the $38.8 million settlement with Juul on Dec. 12, 2022. School boards in Butler County began to formally accept their settlement amounts in late February and early March.

“Juul knowingly targeted young people with tactics similar to the tobacco companies’ playbook,” said Shapiro at the time. “They disregarded their growing audience of young users, taking no action, as their market share skyrocketed on the backs of American kids.

“About 13% of Pennsylvania students have vaped in the past 30 days — this settlement is only the beginning of keeping our kids safe from the dangers of vaping.”

Matt Hoffman, Seneca Valley School District solicitor, said the district will net about $85,000.

Costs to replace aging vaping detectors in bathrooms in the secondary buildings, to add more vaping curriculum in health classes and in the community and to install cameras will quickly use up the funds within the district, where a parent complained about the issue Monday.

The parent said her son, a student at the intermediate high school, is addicted to nicotine, and vapes are used in the bathroom at his school.

If approved, the funding would replace the 8-year-old vaping detectors in bathrooms for grades seven through 12.

Superintendent Tracy Vitale said the settlement from Juul resulting from multi-district litigation on vaping will be voted on at next week’s school board meeting.

According to Moniteau Area School District superintendent Aubrie Schnelle, one idea the administration had begun discussing is to bring in guest speakers on the subject of vaping to educate students on its dangers.

“Another idea we looked into previously was the installation of vape detectors in the restrooms, as that’s usually where everything happens,” Schnelle said at the Feb. 27 board meeting.

The Moniteau Area School District is set to receive a little over $21,000 for its portion of the settlement.

Brian White, superintendent of Butler Area School District, said the district is getting $99,000 through the settlement, but that money’s use has yet to be determined.

The Knoch School District approved its $37,000 Juul settlement at its March 8 meeting.

The Freeport Area School District voted on March 8 to accept a settlement of about $10,000 in the Juul settlement.

Alfonso Angelucci, superintendent of Slippery Rock Area School District, said the school district is receiving approximately $33,000, and the school board plans to discuss the share at a meeting Monday, March 13.

Eric Ritzert, superintendent of the Karns City Area school district, said the district’s allocation totals just over $26,000. The motion to approve the funds will be placed on the school board’s March 13 meeting agenda, with recommendation from the administration to approve it.

Superintendent Mark Gross of Mars Area School District said that the district could not discuss the amount it received as per a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement.

The district has yet to earmark the funds for any specific use.

The Allegheny-Clarion Valley School district is also set to receive funds from the settlement, but could not be reached for comment.

Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York in 2018. School districts across Butler County received more than $311,000 from their involvement in a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Juul Labs that sought damages for the use of vaping products among students. AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

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