Sarasota family speaks out about JUUL lawsuit

Sarasota County

For the first time, we’re hearing from a Sarasota family that’s taking on the e-cigarette giant, JUUL.

Their 15-year-old daughter’s addiction has cost her dearly both at school and with her own health. Now they’ve filed a class action lawsuit.

“We’ve been through hell basically, the last year and a half,” said mother Erin NesSmith.

The NesSmiths are your typical, hard-working, loving family. Last year when their 15-year-old daughter Ashlynn got introduced to a JUUL e-cigarette at school, and their lives turned upside down.

“Her focus has been on where she’s going to find her next JUUL fix, if you will,” said father Jared NesSmith.

Ashlynn went from a stellar student and athlete to withdrawing from school.

“Our daughter has gone from as a freshman, being a 4.2 GPA student in two clubs and being a varsity letterman on the softball team to withdrawing from school this year. Her behavior has completely changed,” said Jared.

Her parents say the year-long nicotine addiction also re-ignited powerful seizures that she hadn’t experienced in years. The family feels it could be a possible side effect to nicotine addiction.

“It was on remission in my eyes, she hadn’t had a seizure in almost two years,” recalled Erin.

Ashlynn claims she didn’t know JUULs could be addictive.

“When she started smoking it, she did not know there was nicotine in it,” said Erin. “For her it was just a sweet flavoring that you inhaled.”

Now she’s homeschooled, getting treatment and off the JUULs. 

The family is now filing a class action lawsuit. They feel the product design and attractive ad campaigns make it alluring to teens.

“It was designed to look like a thumb drive, if you will,” said Jared.

The company claims the products are marketed toward adults as a cigarette alternative.

“I don’t understand how something she got addicted to is supposed to help you stop smoking,” said Erin.

The family wants parents to be on the lookout.

“We just wanted to get the word out and let other parents know what’s going on,” said Jared.

The FDA says America is currently facing a youth vaping epidemic. Jared and Erin NesSmith say their daughter easily got a hold of JUULs at school.

“Other kids had JUULs, they were literally vaping the JUUL in class,” said Erin. “They put it in their sleeve and they smoke it through their sleeve so nobody knows that they’re doing it, or they leave and go to the bathroom.” 

“There’s dealers at school, there’s kids selling it at school that are either…getting it from their parents or…old enough to buy it themselves,” said Jared.

“With this thing, you can literally go through your day, the whole day with it in your sleeve, with it in your hand and smoke it throughout the whole day,” Erin added.

The parents realize some of the criticism that may be directed their way.

“We’re not perfect parents, we know that,” said Erin.

“We do take that blame for it. We didn’t know, we had no clue and the reason we didn’t know is because they made it in this small little cartridge that she literally can hide in her pencil box. She can hide it in her bra, she can hide it in her waistline, she can hide it up her sleeve. She can smoke it in the kitchen while I’m sitting in the next room over and I have zero clue that she’s smoking it.”

The family is hoping to either shut down this company or lead to sweeping changes in the e-cigarette industry.

A JUUL spokesman released the following statement:

JUUL Labs is committed to eliminating combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in the world. Our product is intended to be a viable alternative for current adult smokers only. We do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product. To this end, we have launched an aggressive action plan to combat underage use as it is antithetical to our mission. To the extent these cases allege otherwise, they are without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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