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When it comes to teenagers, fads may come and go, but parents should still make themselves aware of the latest substance use trend taking over middle and high schools: “JUULing.”
Even if you haven’t heard of JUULing yet, you’re likely already aware of the behavior it describes. More widely known as vaping, JUULing is the relatively widespread practice of inhaling and exhaling aerosol, or “vapor,” produced by a new and increasingly popular brand of e-cigarette. The sleek and modern looking JUUL is just the latest and fastest growing e-cigarette brand to corner the market.
JUUL devices are unique because they more closely resemble a USB drive or a stick of gum than a cigarette, and have captured the attention of users, especially middle and high school students attracted to the discreet design and relatively odorless vapor.
Despite being marketed as an alternative to cigarettes for adults who smoke, current smokers looking to quit are hardly the only people using JUUL products. In fact, the extent to which JUUL e-cigarettes -- which come in enticing flavors like mango, crème brûlée and fruit medley -- have pervaded middle and high schools and colleges across the country is alarming.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer even credited “JUULing” as a significant contributor to New York State’s elevated teen vaping rate after a recent report indicated that 20 percent of New York’s high school students use e-cigarettes. In an attempt to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better regulate e-cigarette products in order to curb underage use, Schumer said, “a rise in the use of gadgets like JUUL, which can fool teachers and be brought to school, demands the FDA smoke out dangerous e-cigs and their mystery chemicals before more New York kids get hooked.”
But are JUULs actually dangerous?
While many young people (and adults) see little harm in vaping, the answer is yes.
The vapor JUULs and other e-cigarettes produce come from heating up liquid “e-juice,” which is added to the devices via refillable cartridges. In addition to nicotine (which is found in all JUUL products), the liquids used for e-cigarettes also contain cancer-causing toxic chemicals, heavy metals and ultrafine particles that pose additional health risks.
It is also common for people to “hack” their e-cigarettes or JUULs to vape marijuana or other drugs.
Beyond the risk toxic chemicals may pose, numerous studies have also shown the harm of nicotine itself to teenagers and a JUUL cartridge has approximately the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Nicotine can disrupt brain development, contribute to future cardiovascular disease and increase the risk of a teen trying alcohol or other drugs. Nicotine itself is also a highly addictive drug, which explains why a significant proportion of teens who have never smoked a cigarette or who never intended to smoke a cigarette end up smoking after using e-cigarettes like JUULs.
What can parents do?
Talk to your kids about the dangers of using any form of tobacco or nicotine product. Although they may be less harmful than traditional e-cigarettes, it is important to remind your children that JUULing, vaping, or whatever they are calling it is bad for their health and development and best to be avoided. Educate yourself about like-cigarettes and what to do if you find out your children are using them.
Tell us in the comments below, how do you talk to your kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes?
Hannah Freedman is a communications and digital associate at Center on Addiction