What is JUULing and are your kids doing it?
OKLAHOMA CITY — There's a new way kids are getting a buzz and they don't even have to work hard to hide it.
It's called JUULing because it uses a new type of electronic cigarette called a JUUL. It is a trend that is starting to be seen at middle and high schools across Oklahoma.
“I'm kind of looking for things that may catch my eye in advertisements to kind of know what is in the know and what might catch another students eye,” Cheyenne Middle School Principal Michelle Grinsteiner said of how she first learned about JUUL.
Grinsteiner is getting in front of JUULing by sending a warning to parents and teachers about what to look out for. She has not confiscated any devices at her school, but Edmond Public Schools says it is a device that is showing up in the hands of teens and preteens.
“The nicotine level in there could be equal to a pack of cigarettes that is very detrimental to a student's health,” Grinsteiner said.
JUULs look like USB drives; in fact, the charger plugs into a computer’s USB port. The Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center recently published its own findings about JUULing in middle and high schools.
“We're seeing that [students] like the nicotine buzz that you get from the product,” explained researcher Dr. Elise Stevens. “We're also seeing that since it looks like a thumb drive it is easy to hide from parents and teachers it doesn't create a big cloud of smoke.”
Dr. Stevens studied JUUL and says it is the most effective e-cigarette on the market because it delivers nicotine almost the same as combustible cigarettes. That attribute makes JUUL an attractive option for people looking to stop smoking.
“It is a tough balance to strike,” Stevens explained, “What we do know about e-cigarettes is that they are less harmful than combustible cigarettes. However, research is still going on to see what the long term effects of e-cigarettes are.”
Stevens says typical teen use of JUUL involves one person actually owning the device and other students only purchase the pods, or flavored nicotine packs, that plug into the device.
“This is the first e-cigarette that can deliver it at such high power nicotine without as much wattage,” Stevens said.
You do have to be 18 to buy any piece of a JUUL. The company’s website takes that age restriction a step further. It begins with a screen where the potential buyer has to agree to be age verified to prove they are over 21 years of age. The company says they do not market to children.
However, history shows age restrictions do not always stop kids from getting their hands on nicotine.
Stevens says the job of researchers and regulators is to determine where the line should be drawn in making e-cigarettes and their plethora of flavors and forms available. For example, while one could argue the fruity flavors attract kids, you could equally argue the flavors make quitting traditional cigarettes more appealing for smokers.
Ultimately the best advice for anyone wanting to stop kids from picking up a JUUL is education.
“I just think that as educators and administrators, we are always just trying to stay on top of what might be the next trend or enticement with kids,” Grinsteiner said, “And I think the more we know the better and we're able to guide our students in the right direction.”
In a statement the makers of JUUL said their mission is to help adult smokers stop smoking combustible cigarettes.
“JUUL Labs' mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. There is no substitute for complete cessation for smokers. Public health experts agree the best option is not to use nicotine products. JUUL, however, offers an alternative for the 40 million existing adult smokers in the U.S. Our research shows that JUUL has helped over half a million adult smokers to displace cigarettes, and we are working to enable millions more to switch through our technological innovations.
We strongly oppose and actively discourage the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in the possession of a JUUL product. We are committed to reducing the number of minors who possess or use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and to find ways to keep young people from ever trying these products. That's why we raised the age of purchasing JUUL on our website to age 21. To further combat underage use, JUUL Labs is focused on education, enforcement, and partnership with others who are working on this issue, including lawmakers, educators and our business partners. Specifically, we are:
· Evaluating technological innovations intended to address underage use.
· Launching educational pilot programs in high schools in California.
· Actively working with law enforcement and community leaders across the country.
· Deploying a secret shopper program to monitor age verification of retailers.
Nicotine is addictive. An individual who has not previously used nicotine products should not start, particularly youth. Recent science raises serious concerns about the adverse effect of nicotine on adolescent neurodevelopment. We are committed to increasing the dialogue around the dangers of nicotine use in adolescents. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and engage with parents and educators and encourage them to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”