As if being a parent wasn’t freaking stressful enough, we now have yet another thing to worry about. Ever heard of “juuling”? Well, neither had I, up until a few days ago. But apparently, many high schoolers—and even some middle schoolers—most definitely have. And the scary thing is that they are easily able to hide what they’re doing.
Here’s the low-down. Juul is a new kind of e-cigarette or vaporizer. You plug the Juul into a USB port (the device itself looks like a flashdrive) to charge them, and then smoke right up. The Juul website claims that they contain 0.7 mL with 5 percent nicotine by weight, and that one Juul “pod” is equal to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs.
200 puffs in one pod? That is terrifying.
Juul comes in tons of different flavors, and even though the website makes it clear that they are NOT to be used by anyone under 21, the flavors that they’ve rolled out for use sound quite a bit like they are marketed to a younger crowd. Mango, Cucumber, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley, and Creme Brulee, are some of the most popular flavors.
As Anthony Charuvastra, child psychiatrist and assistant professor at New York University’s Medical Center remarked to The New York Times: “Who over 25 is looking for creme brulee as part of a smoking experience?”
Thanks to the fact that Juul is small and sleek, it can easily be smoked by being cupped into the palm of your hand, thus totally concealing its use. According to some reports, teens smoke Juuls in broad site of their parents or teachers (even in class!), and no one knows what the heck they’re doing. So much for going to smoke in the school bathroom. With these, you can smoke up while you’re taking a math test.
Now, in case you think “Oh, it’s just vaping. It’s not as bad as smoking,” I’m sorry, but you’ve been misinformed. While more research needs to be done about whether vaping has any slight advantages over traditional smoking, most reports indicate that this advantage would be slim, and that “e-cigarettes”—especially ones that contain nicotine, as Juul does—are still a substantial health threat.
And this is especially true when you are talking about teens, whose minds and bodies are still developing.
Take this new study released this month by NYU, which tested the dangers of vaping. The study researchers exposed mice to nicotine vapor for a 12-week period. What they found is that e-cigarettes cause substantial damage to DNA, in turn, increasing the chances of cancer and heart disease among users.
“For us, it’s unambiguous,” Dr. Moon-Shong Tang, the study’s lead researcher, said. “The only thing I can conclude is that vaping is harmful, not only to yourself but to bystanders as well, […] because it has the same effect as smoking, maybe less but they also breathe nicotine.”
Yup. Not something to be taken lightly at all.
Part of the reason this particular study was carried out was because of the alarming increase in e-cigarette use over the past few years—especially among young people—coupled with a misguided notion that vaping is somehow safer than traditional cigarettes.
“Eighteen million people are smoking e-cigarettes, particularly young people,” Dr. Tang study’s said. “It’s a new culture.”
And it’s one parents—and anyone working with young people—need to be aware of.
Perhaps the only good news here is that, according to the CDC, traditional smoking among teens is actually at the lowest point it’s been in 24 years. And as The New York Times points out, other dangerous behaviors like drinking and drug use are also down among teens.
But an e-cigarette crisis use among our teens is emerging as a huge problem, one that seems to be spreading like wildfire. And the fact that something like “Juuling” has become one of the most popular ways to vape is concerning, especially because of the fact that it can be so well hidden from adults.
So talk to your teens. Connect with them so that they feel safe sharing even some of the more difficult stuff with you. And make sure they are educated about Juuling and e-cigarettes in general. These things are dangerous, and we need our kids to stay the hell away from them.