Have you heard about this dangerous new teen vaping trend?

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been cutting class and hanging out in a high school bathroom, you might not be aware that there is a new trend popular with teens -- using JUUL e-cigarettes.

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that heat up liquid nicotine that is then inhaled. JUUL is the bestselling e-cigarette on the market with 32% of the market share, according to Nielsen Data.

And don’t get it wrong, most teens will quickly correct you that they are “JUULing”, not vaping. 

Those same kids may not be aware that if they are JUULing, they are still inhaling a significant amount of nicotine. According to JUUL’s website, “One JUULpod is approximately equivalent to 1 pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs. Each JUULpod contains 0.7mL with 5% nicotine by weight.”

If a teen smokes one pod a week, “in five weeks that is like 100 cigarettes” said Pamela Ling, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. “By that point, you’re considered an established smoker.”

Read GroupMe & Other Dangerous Apps Parents Should Know.

Why are JUUL e-cigarettes so popular?

Here is the attraction (and the problem) – JUUL’s don’t look or taste anything like a standard e-cigarette.

The JUUL device is built into a USB stick that has three purposes:

  • Can be easily charged on a laptop
  • Hard to detect from a standard memory stick USB
  • JUUL devices can be customized with colorful skins or decals

JUUL comes in sweet, candy-like flavors that are appealing to a younger palate, offering such flavors like Virginia tobacco, cool mint, fruit medley, creme brulee & mango. These flavors are dangerous because as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “flavorings in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth.”

The flavors also have another selling point for kids – the odor produced from a JUUL has a similar sweet scent of body lotion or spray versus stale smoke, thus making it more difficult for parents or teachers to detect. At least now the high school bathrooms smell more like Juicy Fruit gum than gym socks or stale smoke, but at what cost?

While the FDA has banned most flavored cigarettes and tobacco products, they have not banned flavored vapes. Since 2016, the FDA does have authority to regulate e-cigarette products, claims Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids in an interview with NPR. “However, the FDA delayed key provisions for an additional four years. That means highly flavored e-cigarettes will go unregulated essentially for years to come,” he says. 

The postponed regulation would require all e-cigarettes, including flavors, to have FDA approval before going to market.

Unlike last year’s fidget spinners, JUULs are more than just the latest teen fad –their “cool factor” does not outweigh the health concerns involved. In fact, the CDC states that e-cigarettes are the most common form of tobacco use among tween and teens in both middle school and high schools.

Is JUULing more addictive than other e-cigarettes?

To date, no studies have shown if JUUL is more addictive that other e-cigarettes, in fact, there has been very little long-term data on how any e-cigarettes affect health.

What is known is that each JUUL pod contains nicotine equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. That alone is a fact that should concern parents since research has indicated that nicotine is highly addictive.

JUUL was specifically created to mimic the experience and satisfaction of smoking a regular cigarette, but unlike most e-cigarettes, they don’t use the type of nicotine called “free-base” that when inhaled pass quickly into the blood stream. Instead, the JUUL pods are a proprietary mixture of flavors, salts and organic acids found in tobacco leaves.

The brand boasts, “The JUUL vaporizer has regulated temperature control and uses nicotine salts as found in the tobacco leaf rather than free-base nicotine, unlike standard e-cigarettes. These qualities are unique to JUUL. By accommodating cigarette-like nicotine levels, JUUL provides satisfaction to meet the standards of smokers looking to switch from smoking cigarettes.”

What Parents Need to Know About E-Cigarettes

Over one million JUUL systems have been sold to date and the product is currently available at 12,000 convenient stores across the US, as well as online. Purchasers must be over 21 to purchase legally, but unfortunately many minors have figured out alternate ways to purchase JUULs.

If you're worried about what your kids are searching for and purchasing online, try Zift to monitor your child's online and in-app activity.

It’s essential for parents to have a conversation with your kids about e-cigarettes and make sure they’re aware that even if they taste sweet like a gummy bear, they are inhaling dangerous nicotine. Parents can also partner with schools to help establish further awareness about e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction.

For more information about e-cigarettes and the health risks involved, visit Kids Health.

Remember, keeping our kids safe is a shared responsibility, especially with products on the market that can be appealing and dangerous to our youth.