Parents, by now you’ve probably heard about the surge in e-cigarette use among young people. You may have even talked to your teen about this concerning trend. With so many new products on the market with more discreet designs, it can be hard to recognize whether your teen is using them. One of the most popular products among youth that is blindsiding parents is JUUL, a type of e-cigarette used for “vaping.”
What you should know about JUUL
JUUL does not look like a typical e-cigarette. Its sleek, flat shell and pod closely resembles a USB flash drive. The pods come in many flavors and typically contain the addictive substance nicotine. Each pod provides approximately 200 puffs and contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Nicotine can reprogram your child’s brain so that all he or she thinks about is their next tobacco use. Learn more about how to help your child quit at NortonHealthcare.com/Smoking.
Myths describing vaping as a safe alternative to regular cigarette use are just that — myths. Even the creator of JUUL warns on the label that “no tobacco or e-liquid product should ever be considered safe.”
How are youth getting access to JUULs and other e-cigarette products?
You guessed it — online. The majority of young people are purchasing the products on the internet or from friends who are getting access from older siblings or online. In some cases, youth obtain counterfeit identification online as well (mostly produced in China).
“Trends are changing at such a rapid pace that parents really need to be in the know,” said Kelli Van Zant, events and support specialist of Operation: PARENT, and parent of four. “Look for and talk to not only your children, but to their friends and their friends’ parents.”
What’s the harm?
E-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition to nicotine, they contain many potentially harmful additives and chemicals. This is especially dangerous for young people because they are highly susceptible to becoming addicted. In fact, most adult smokers started using tobacco when they were under age 19. Experimenting with a trendy product like JUUL may seem cool to young people because it’s a fashionable trend, but it also is likely to cause lifelong nicotine dependence.
“To the kids today, everything seems harmless. Because these tools are so prevalent, they must be OK,” Van Zant said. “Parents really need to be aware and prepare their kids for the curiosity of these trends.”
Teens describe addiction to nicotine as causing irritability, headaches, body aches and compulsive thoughts about needing a “hit.”
Using JUUL also can be quite costly. Young people can spend upward of $100 per month on pods, case embellishments and other products sold by e-cigarette companies.
Is my teen at risk?
One teen warns: “If your kids say they don’t vape, they vape.” Teens use the easily concealed JUUL device even in class — they hold the vapor until it dissipates in their lungs or blow it into a sleeve. Of course, not all teens are vaping, but this candid advice from a teen is a signal to parents to be aware and have ongoing conversations about the dangers of nicotine addiction and alternative ways to relieve stress, engage in hobbies and avoid peer pressure.
Local schools, such as the Oldham County, Kentucky, school system, are seeing a rise in the use of vaping, and JUUL in particular.
“This trend came on fast,” said Mary Beth Uberti, director of program development at Operation: PARENT. “Because of the JUUL’s ability to conceal its scent and be easily hidden due to its size, we’re seeing students use them in places like school bathrooms and buses.”
Uberti has spoken with parents of incoming freshman and school counselors at Oldham County Schools to help inform them of the rising trend and educate them on what to look for.
Jenita Lyons is manager of health and wellness at Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.