It looks like a harmless USB flash drive, easily hidden in a school backpack or back pocket. But the JUUL, a slim electronic delivery device for nicotine, has become the e-cigarette of choice for many teens in the U.S.
By inserting a JUUL pod into the JUUL and breathing into the mouthpiece, teens get a strong hit of nicotine as the device vaporizes the liquid in the JUUL pod. Once the power runs out, it can be recharged using the USB port on a computer.
Many teens are lured by the kid-friendly flavors that JUUL pods offer, including cotton candy, mango and chocolate. Others incorrectly believe that it is a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes and does not contain nicotine.
“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are harmful and highly addictive. Use among high school students is up 78 percent in the last year, with 1.5 million new students using e-cigarettes,” said Tiffany Heckendorn, pediatrician at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, referencing the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)'s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey results.
Here are five facts about JUULing that families need to know:
- It’s not just harmless water vapor. Many teens are not aware that they are inhaling nicotine since they are not smoking cigarettes in a traditional way. But the vapor that is inhaled does contain nicotine, as well as glycerol and propylene glycol, benzoic acid, and flavorants.
- It is not a safer way to consume nicotine. E-cigarette companies have been marketing their products as “healthier” and “safer” than traditional cigarettes. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 17 percent of students chose to use e-cigarettes because they felt they were less harmful than other forms of tobacco such as cigarettes.
- JUUL pods contain nearly double the concentration of nicotine, compared to other e-cigarette cartridges, according to the American Association of Pediatrics.
- The younger you are exposed to nicotine, the more difficult it is to quit. When the young brain is still developing and is exposed to an addictive substance, it is more difficult to quit an addiction when it is started early.
- E-cigarette use increases your risk of traditional cigarette use. More than four times as many young adults who use e-cigarettes start smoking tobacco cigarettes than those who do not use e-cigarettes, according to the Truth Initiative.
“Please don’t let your kids become a statistic. Talk to them today about the facts about e-cigarettes,” said Heckendorn.