By John A. Lancaster
San Diego Unified School District is the latest addition to an expanding list of school districts suing e-cigarette company Juul on the grounds of (presumably) marketing their products to youth. The grievances alleged against Juul include financial loss, disrupting learning environment, thwarting anti-smoking campaigns, and inciting violence. On a broader scale, the Center for Disease Control has hitherto attributed over 2,600 hospitalizations and 57 deaths to vaping. While scholastic obstruction and the pernicious effects suffered by the ill-fated vapers is a serious concern that warrants attention, schools seeking restitution from the company is nevertheless an impractical and vain endeavor.
The proverbial elephant in the room must be addressed. Whether or not Juul’s marketing induced youngsters of any background to consume their products is nothing more than a red herring. Teenage years are arguably the most peer-pressure- susceptible, emotional, rebellious, risk-seeking, and inquisitive time in the human lifespan. This innate behavioral pattern along with the omnipresence of social-media and communication channels will urge substance use regardless of advertisement presence. Peer driven rumors, videos of experimentation, forums, news, and entertainment sources provide nigh infinite opportunities for young ones to pick up on vices. The appeal of vaping would’ve caused widespread exposure through said channels anyway. The most marketing does at that point is convince the willing participants to choose a particular brand rather than take on the act itself.
Furthermore, children above 6 years of age should already be debriefed about the perils of any kind of smoking, according to the American Lung Association. In fact, there had been hundreds of millions of dollars spent on solely anti-smoking campaigns at least a half decade before Juul was even founded. The occurrence of youths being attracted to a nicotine product enough to forgo the warnings that have been supposedly instilled in them indicates the poor effectiveness of the warnings themselves. If young people were efficiently dissuaded from smoking in the first place, they wouldn’t be prone to pick up a derivative practice. Juul being able to somehow undo whatever headway was made by the crusade highlights a weakness in the employed methods. No amount of lawsuits or restitution can remedy short sighted, ineffectual techniques. Ignoring this fragility is a recipe for history to repeat itself and allows another dangerous habit to take hold in the unforeseen future. If the well-being of students is the aim of school districts, they ought to look inward at their own inability to quell such undesirable behavior.