Kentucky school districts are trying to stem the tide of vaping that not only is harming the health of their middle and high school students, but also is draining resources.
Bullitt County Public Schools superintendent Jesse Bacon recently announced his district will sue e-cigarette companies over their targeted marketing to young people.
"I want all of our taxpayers to know that we're not using district funds to pursue this," Bacon said. "This is all on the backs of the attorneys that have agreed to represent us, and so any compensation that the attorneys get would be based on any kind of favorable judgment or settlement that the district gets."
Juul, the most popular e-cigarette manufacturer, maintains its marketing was geared toward people who already were smokers. Last week, the Fayette County Public Schools board unanimously voted to sue Juul and other companies for sparking what it called an epidemic of nicotine addiction among students in the Commonwealth.
Bacon said because nearly 70% of his students have either tried vaping or are actively vaping, the number of infractions related to e-cigarette use has skyrocketed and taken up a huge portion of his administration's time.
"They are so sophisticated now, where it's almost impossible, or nearly impossible, for our teachers to be able to detect what's going on," he said. "Our teachers, we're having to train them to be the vaping police, and that shouldn't be their first responsibility. Their first responsibility should be to educate these kids."
He said he'd like to see manufacturers pay for nicotine cessation programs for students who have become addicted.
"What we're really hoping for out of all of this is, really, for these companies to change their practice," Bacon said. "I think it's been well documented, if you look historically over the course of the last three to five years, that these companies have purposefully marketed to young people to use their product."
So far, more than 40 cases of vaping-related lung injury in the Commonwealth are being investigated by the state Department for Public Health.