What is Juuling? A Juul is a popular e-cigarette (a smokeless nicotine delivery system) that looks like a USB flash drive. Juuling is more popular with teens, in fact, than traditional cigarettes. Juul popularity seems to be due to its discreet appearance and small size, with no visible “smoke”, making using easily concealable, even in classrooms as well as school bathrooms. The multitude of fruity flavors available and media sharing with hashtags like #doit4juul entice teens to use. Juuling has become such a problem in schools and classrooms that many have banned flash drives altogether in efforts to minimize use of the look-alike Juuls.
The Juul consists of a long, slim vaporizer and disposable “pods” of nicotine juice, which are what look like the USB drive – a little metal rectangle, possibly with a colored plastic cap. The pod uses electricity (it charges on any laptop or USB port) to heat the nicotine juice creating vapor, which is inhaled. The only “tell” of this invisible vapor is a fruity smell. While Juul companies state they market this device as a “healthier” alternative for adult cigarette smokers, teens have clearly taken to use. Though Juul websites claim to require a minimum age 21 verification for sale, as at gas stations, teens seem to have no problem obtaining the product.
So why the concern? Each Juul pod contains about the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, which is more than double that of other vaping products, delivering a strong, fast punch or buzz. Kids have described getting an attractive buzz or head rush at first when using, which then becomes a nicotine addiction, just like with cigarette use. Eventually the buzz fades with use and kids are left addicted to nicotine, craving the next hit often as soon as every 30 minutes. Nicotine has been shown to have long term impacts on brain development, affecting behavior, concentration, memory and ability to learn. The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care states that according to one study, adolescents who use e-cigs are twice as likely to suffer respiratory/lung/breathing symptoms like persistent cough, bronchitis, congestion, and phlem, and users are more likely to take up smoking cigarettes than those who don’t use e-cigs. Dentally we often see unexplained throat and gum irritation, dry mouth, and increased tartar-like build up. Other symptoms are new sensitivity to caffeine and possible nose bleeds.
It is recommended to talk with your teens, both middle and high schoolers, and try to open up a conversation about Juuling and e-cig use. Ask them what they may know or have experienced themselves or with friend, and what they think about it. Be sure your student knows school policy and health risks involved. Make them aware that just because something is marketed as “healthy” or “healthier” than cigarettes that does not mean it is good for them, at all. Be aware of potential long lasting health consequences.