The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) on Monday voted to approve a legal settlement with electronic cigarette manufacturer JUUL that could bring as much as $570,000 into the system.
The SBAC authorized the superintendent in September 2022 to join with approximately 1,400 other school boards around the country in a lawsuit against JUUL. The schools sued in part to recover expenses related to dealing with e-cigarettes and vaping in schools.
And in January, a judge gave preliminary approval to a $1.5 billion settlement in the case.
As part of the settlement, the school board would get $760,582 but attorney’s fees and court costs are estimated to run about 25%, according to a letter from school board attorney David Delaney.
Delaney estimated at the meeting that the school district would end up with approximately $500,000 to $570,000 after fees, and recommended the board approve the settlement amount. The attorneys representing the 1,400 school systems in the lawsuit also “strongly recommended” agreeing to the settlement, according to Delaney’s letter.
“This is contingent upon JUUL continuing to operate as a business,” Delaney said Monday. “They’re in litigation with the FDA right now regarding whether they continue to operate.”
If the settlement goes through, Alachua County would receive its money as a series of payments. The first installment of $250,000 would be paid in the fall, and the remaining money would be paid in four annual payments starting in December, Delaney said.
“This worked out a little bit different than what I thought it would,” said board chair Tina Certain. “I didn’t think anything would ever come out of it when it was presented to us to join the lawsuit.”
The school board didn’t discuss how the JUUL funds might be used, but Certain said during board member comment that they would have a discussion about spending the money once they had the funds in hand.
Certain said she hopes the funds can be used for education about the dangers of vaping and for intervention efforts aimed at stopping or preventing students from using e-cigarettes.
Alachua County is one of several school districts in Florida to be eligible for funds under the settlement. Larger school systems like Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Duval are eligible for larger settlement amounts.
The settlement amounts were determined by district size, number of schools, and the number of full-time students, which were weighted based on age, according to the settlement summary provided to the school board. School systems with more high school students were given more funding.
Besides Alachua County, area systems involved in the lawsuit included Gilchrist County, which is eligible for $54,000.