Traditional vaping is old news – at least among high school students. The new best thing is called “Juul” and it is dramatically increasing in popularity among high school students.
The JUUL device, with a sleek design that resembles a flash drive, is a special hit with teens. Because JUULing puts off significantly less vapor than other e-cigarettes, it is very discreet. Thousands of online videos show kids JUULing at school, exhaling into shirts, hoodies or backpacks to hide the vapor, which disappears in an instant. JUUL puts off a sweet, fruity smell—easily mistakable as perfume or hair product, making it difficult for school officials and other adults to detect.
JUULs are designed to be very simple and easy to use. The JUUL also has multiple flavors available – mint, tobacco, mango, crème brulee and fruit. Juuls plug into a laptop or any USB port to charge up their battery. The flavored pod attaches to the charged device, which heats up the pod’s liquid. The user then ‘draws’ on the device to inhale the vapor into his lungs. Each pod is the nicotine equivalent of 200 puffs, or an entire pack of traditional cigarettes. This is also the capacity of a single charge. Pods are generally sold in 4-packs. Juuls come with a pre-set, 5-percent nicotine content.
JUUL pods contain high levels of nicotine, a highly addictive, damaging substance that can have severe consequences on developing brains, lungs and bodies. The vaping industry promotes the fact that nicotine salt—the form of nicotine used in JUUL liquid is known to produce a smoother ‘hit’ and less throat irritation than ‘free-base’ nicotine used in typical e-cigarette liquid. This may encourage users to take longer, deeper puffs, which may result in very high levels of nicotine per puff than either standard cigarettes or typical e-cigarettes. According to the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report, exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm brain development, which may have implications for cognition, attention and mood. Even brief periods of continuous or intermittent nicotine exposure in adolescence may cause lasting neurobehavioral damage. Similar to other vaping devices, JUULs contain additional harmful materials such as heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds.
Most young people that we talk to do not realize that there is any danger to using vaping type products. They see JUUL as a cool, safe alternative to cigarettes. There is substantial evidence that youth who use e-cigarettes (including JUUL) are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes—leading to additional tobacco-related diseases. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine.
According to the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s (ACASA) 2017 Risk and Protective Survey done in the majority of schools in Allegany County, almost 14% of high school students in Allegany County have used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Compared to 8.2% of high school students, who said they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, e-cigarettes seem to be popular with Allegany County students. For more information on how to talk to teens about e-cigs and JUUL, please take a look at the Surgeon General’s “Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip for Parents”.