Morton Marcus: Hoosier schools are leaving vaping money on the table

I read a 309-page story that could turn into a delightful movie about corporate deception and anti-social behavior.

The managers of JUUL would be hilarious if they were played by the Marx brothers. Unfortunately, these managers have caused widespread addiction among teenagers and additional costs for our schools.

Do you remember when smoking was easily accepted in public places? When the Surgeon General of the United States submitted a report in 1964 on the link between cancer, heart disease and cigarettes, we tightened the regulations on “coffin nails”. Twenty years later, smoking was banned in public places, including airplanes, hospitals and restaurants.

In the 1990s, attorneys general across America sued tobacco companies and won massive state awards for health care provided to smokers. Since 1999, Indiana has received $2.9 billion for smoking cessation and related programs, including $146 million in 2021.

Then came vaping, the process of heating a chemical solution producing a gas that, like cigarettes, contains nicotine and can be inhaled. Quickly, JUUL’s products conquered the market. This objective was achieved by targeting middle and high school children.

Although JUUL denies such targeting, its use of social media, packaging and flavor additives has made it “cool” for 13-23 year olds. A steady and growing stream of health issues among young people has led to numerous studies and even a congressional hearing on vaping.

JUUL products release more nicotine than cigarettes in a single puff, speeding up the process of nicotine addiction. As cigarettes run out, ending nicotine consumption, JUUL delivers its higher volume of nicotine long after any cigarette is finished.

In 2018, JUUL Labs, Inc. (JLI) sold a 35% stake in itself to Altria, the former Philip Morris mega-corporation, for $12.8 billion. Building on Altria’s experience selling tobacco to the youth market, JUUL expanded the nicotine addiction market. Originally touted as a convenient and reliable way to quit smoking, JUUL and other e-cigarette makers knew that early addiction drives long-term sales.

As young people became addicted to e-cigarettes, school counselors and teachers had to deal with increased disruptive behaviors and new health issues among students. Critical time lost for education and orientation was a real cost not reported in the annual financial statements.

Today, a multi-state lawsuit representing more than 250 school districts is moving forward. Yet only 15 are from Indiana. Why so little? There is no financial risk, no fees to pay for school districts. All they have to do is answer a majority Yes/No questionnaire.

From my reading of the submission on behalf of Carmel Clay Schools, the blatant deception of JLI management will be exposed and a nice financial boost for the schools realized. Why aren’t Columbus, Chesterton, and West Lafayette school boards participating? Are they so blessed that they don’t have a vaping epidemic and don’t need extra funding?

About Margaret Shaw

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