By Amy Harris (MS, RN, CNM,Health Educator)
I work in public health, but up until about three weeks ago I had never even heard of "JUULing" before. That is when The New York Times featured a local Maine high school in their article about teens and vaping.
As I talked to the experts at MaineHealth and read more about the health risks of vaping in youth, I realized that the most important first step we as adults all need to take to counteract vaping's growing popularity is to try to learn more about it.
Learn about Vaping, E-ciggarettes and JUULing.
The time is NOW to learn more. Talk to other parents. Talk to health professionals. Read this blog.
For a real wake-up call, you might try learning about ENDS in the same way youth do. Check out Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and any other social media sites and search for terms such as: "JUULing," "how to vape without getting caught," "cool vaping tricks," or anything else you can imagine a teen typing in. Then you will see how teens will learn about vaping… unless you talk to them first.
What are ENDS?
ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) is the general term used describe e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-cigars, JUULs and other vaping devices that produce an aerosolized mixture of flavored liquids and nicotine.
Basic facts you need to know before talking about ENDS.
1. Safety is relative. Although vaping may seem safer than smoking cigarettes, it is still harmful. It may be even riskier for teens to use ENDS.
- Early nicotine use causes changes in the brain. These permanent changes can raise the chances of: depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and loss of concentration.
- Youth who start using e-cigarettes have been shown to be more likely to use other tobacco products and may also use vaping and JUUL devices to inhale the liquid form of marijuana.
- Nicotine use effects immature brains and may make it easier for teens to later become addicted to other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine (speed).
- The liquid used in ENDS has a mix of nicotine and other substances such as propylene glycol, formaldehyde, and toluene all known to cause cancer and birth defects. We don’t yet know the long-term effects of many of the other chemicals and flavorings in vaping liquids and JUUL pods.
2. The nicotine in ENDs is HIGHLY addictive, even after just a few uses.
- The FDA has not approved JUULing or other e-cigarettes to help with quitting smoking.
- In fact, teens in high schools are being prescribed nicotine gum to chew in class to help them try to quit vaping.
- JUUL is becoming a very popular brand of e-cigarette that is shaped like a USB drive. It has been nick-named the iPod of e-cigarettes. Here is a link to some pictures, if you have never seen a JUUL.
- 1 JUUL pod = nicotine content of 200 puffs or a full pack of cigarettes.
3. ENDS do NOT taste, smell or look like a cigarette.
- ENDs are made to look like pipes, pens, flashlights and USB drives.
- Kids are drawn to fun and healthier-sounding flavors like mango (the most popular JUUL flavor), cool mint, fruit medley, and crème brulee.
- ENDs, and especially JUUL, are popular because they are easier for teens to hide. They give off a smaller cloud of odorless or fruity-smelling vapor which leaves no lasting smell on clothing or in rooms. Stealth vaping tricks shown on social media teach teens how to exhale into their sweatshirt and how to hide ENDs inside a Sharpie Marker, in the shoulder strap of a backpack, or even attached to a bra strap.
4. E-cigarettes are the most commonly-used tobacco product among youth.
- In 2015, more than one out of 4 high schoolers and middle schoolers surveyed nationally has tried e-cigarettes. That study data was gathered a year before JUUL's hit the market.
- It is not hard for youth to get access to ENDS.
- A JUUL starter kit costs $49.99 (device, charger, and 4 JUULpods).
- Under-age buyers have found ways to buy ENDS online from the JUUL website, other online retailers. Ebay, Craig’s List, and with Venmo. Be sure to check your credit card receipts carefully.
Hopefully you now feel a little more informed, but not totally freaked out. Having this information will help you talk with other parents, teachers, and your own children. You can help raise awareness within your communities, hopefully having the same success we have had with stigmatizing cigarette smoking among our younger generations.
Here is where you can go to find out more:
If you would like more information on this, or any other health related topic, the health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.