What looks like a flash drive, plugs into a computer’s USB port for charging, tastes like a caramel macchiato or a mango, produces a cloudy vapor suitable for blowing smoke rings, and packs a nicotine punch? Chances are your teenager knows that it is a JUUL, an electronic nicotine-delivery device that Kimberly Suiters claims owns half the e-cigarette market:

You’re supposed to be 18 to buy a JUUL. The company requires you to be 21 if you buy it online. But[…] kids as young as 12 know what it is, and claim that their middle school friends “hit the JUUL” from time to time.


The devices are easily concealed, allowing young students to keep and use them discretely right in front of their teachers’ noses:

“It’s in the bathrooms all the time,” said one O’Connell junior, enjoying her iced chai beverage with a girlfriend after school last month.

When two sophomore girls from Yorktown were shown a JUUL and asked if they knew what it was, they responded, “I don’t know” and “A flash drive?”

A few minutes later they admitted, they lied. They knew it was a JUUL but didn’t want to get in trouble.

Not only is the JUUL easy to hide in your hand, or disguised as a flash drive on your laptop, the high is impossible to spot.

“With JUULs, it’s a five-minute buzz that keeps you entertained in class — your eyes aren’t red, your speech isn’t slurred, it doesn’t smell bad,” said Monroy, in an interview approved by his principal, Dr. Ellen Reilly. “Students are seeing how easy it is to use JUULs in school. They think, ‘If I can get away with a JUUL, who’s to say I can’t get away with using a dab pen, and liquid THC, a prolonged high.’ The JUUL is a gateway to people thinking they can get away with more. They’ve been given and inch, and because faculty doesn’t know what it is, now they’re taking a mile.”


Meanwhile, there is more evidence indicating just how dangerous e-cigarettes are. Pediatrician and Seattle Mama Doc blogger, Wendy Sue Swanson, says a new study points to their cancer-causing potential:

Data out today in Pediatrics finds that teens who used e-cigarettes had up to three times greater amounts of five volatile organic compounds (carcinogens) in their urine compared to teens who did not use e-cigarettes at all. Teens using fruit flavored e-cigarette products, often the preferred choices for teens, produced significantly higher levels of acrylonitrile (a volatile organic compound, known to be toxic). Teens who used both e-cigs and tobacco cigs had even higher levels of the carcinogens overall.


Another study concludes that electronic cigarettes aren’t an alternative as much as they are a gateway to tobacco. Serena Gordon says approximately 3 million American teens vape:

The e-cigarette may not be just a “healthier alternative” to smoking for teens. New research shows that teens who vape may be more apt to use tobacco cigarettes later on.

When teens smoked an e-cigarette during one month, they were up to seven times more likely to smoke tobacco in the future, researchers found.

“Youth using e-cigarettes were consistently more likely to smoke,” said study author Krysten Bold, an associate research scientist at Yale School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry.


The American Academy of Pediatrics spells out its own public health concerns regarding e-cigarettes by piling on the most popular brand:

JUUL operates by heating a “pod” of e-liquid containing nicotine, flavorings and other substances. When heated, the e-liquid creates an aerosol which is inhaled by the user.

JUUL comes in youth-friendly flavors, including mango, mint and fruit-medley. For decades, the tobacco industry has used flavors to attract youth to their products. Youth cite flavors as a common reason for e-cigarette use.

JUUL is highly addictive. The concentration of nicotine in JUUL is more than double the concentration found in other e-cigarettes. This high concentration is a serious concern for youth, who are already uniquely susceptible to nicotine addiction. The addictive potential is so high that the US Surgeon General has declared that youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe.

JUUL users have a significant risk of becoming cigarette smokers. Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to progress to smoking traditional cigarettes.

JUULing is increasingly common in high school and college campuses. Educators report that youth are using JUUL in classrooms, hallways and restrooms, and are sharing devices with their peers. This social use encourages non-users to try JUUL, and enables students who are too young to purchase these products, or who could not otherwise afford them, to access them through peers.


Dr. Swanson tells A. Pawlowski how she advises parents who are concerned that their kids might be JUULing:

• Ask your teens what they know about “juuling.”

• Be clear that you’re learning about this issue together, but mention that vaping is not in your child’s best interest: “Don’t believe that just because it’s not a burning cigarette it’s safe,” Swanson advised saying. “E-cigarettes are not good for you nor is becoming addicted to nicotine.”

• Emphasize that “juuling” still means using nicotine. Using that alternative, innocuous-sounding buzzword creates a “divorce” from decades of health campaigns designed to help the public understand that “cigarettes are bad for you, cigarettes will shorten your life, cigarettes will cause harm,” Swanson said.


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