The Bangor School Department will receive a piece of a settlement with major companies that produce tobacco products and e-cigarettes that have become popular among students across the country.
Bangor is among the nearly 1,000 school departments in the United States that sued Juul Labs, maker of a popular e-cigarette, and Altria, the parent company of several well-known tobacco brands including Marlboro, and others to “hold them accountable for the youth vaping epidemic that is impacting our nation,” Bangor Superintendent James Tager said.
The Bangor School Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to accept the settlement, which was reached in December 2022. The precise amount Bangor will receive is unclear, but the average awards for individual school departments are estimated to be $10,000, Tager said.
Maine communities across the state, including Bangor, Brunswick and Portland, have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in recent years after advocates worried the fruity flavoring and cartoon packaging market to children.
More than 11 percent — or 3 million — of middle and high school students reported using a tobacco product in the last 30 days, a 2022 national survey from the Food and Drug Administration found.
E-cigarettes — often called “vapes” — were the most common type of product students used, the FDA found. They work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that is inhaled. That liquid contains nicotine, an addictive drug that can harm development in the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
JUUL is the top-selling brand of e-cigarette in the United States and the products have been blamed for sparking a spike in youth vaping.
Although e-cigarettes were first marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, because they don’t contain as many harmful chemicals, JUUL e-cigarettes still contain a high level of nicotine. A single cartridge of liquid that goes in a JUUL — called a JUUL pod — contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 traditional cigarettes, according to the CDC.
The disposable cartridges of liquid come in a variety of flavors ranging from mint and menthol to fruit and desserts. In 2022, nearly 85 percent of the youth who reported using e-cigarettes used flavored varieties, the CDC found.
While thousands of individuals, families, school districts and communities have sued the makers of JUUL, the Maine attorney general’s office walked away from an $11 million settlement with the company last September over objections to settlement conditions from the company.
The agreement followed an investigation that found the company marketed to children.
The Maine attorney general’s office said it rejected the settlement because it would have prohibited school districts from pursuing their own lawsuits against the JUUL manufacturer.