When electronic cigarettes were first introduced a decade ago, they seemed like a *slightly* better alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes: less mess, less smell, less cancer-causing substances to be inhaled, same nicotine high. While the “benefits” of “vaping” instead of “smoking” may be true, the fact is that nicotine addiction is still bad for you, even if it comes without that traditional cigarette-smell stigma and a super cool smoke that looks more like steam. And, as vices do, this one has found it’s way to HUGE popularity with today’s teens, thanks to a sleek e-cigarette called the JUUL. Now, all the cool kids in school aren’t vaping, they’re JUULing.
So what IS JUULing?
JUULing is simply smoking an e-cigarette, but a specific one, the JUUL. The JUUL is super-popular among teens because it is so VERY easy to conceal; it is virtually smokeless, and looks exactly like a USB drive your kid might use to transfer information from their home computer to their school computer.
If you’re not up on the latest in electronic cigarettes (and if you don’t smoke, why would you be?), it’s very easy for your kids to hide these from you in plain sight. The colorful nicotine pods come in flavors like mango and creme brulée, and if you smell THAT on your kids, you’re probably just going to think it’s gum or candy. JUULing has become so popular among high school students, and so easy to conceal, that schools are having to take super-specific measures to STOP JUULing at school.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported last week that a principal at an Annapolis, Maryland high school had ordered stall doors removed from school toilets to stop students from taking JUULing breaks during their bathroom breaks. (How removing stall doors can be legal, I don’t know, but apparently it is!) Students are openly tweeting about their peers’ JUUL use, with one exasperated teen tweeting: “Hate when I see people using the toilets in the JUUL room at school,” and using the facepalm emoji for emphasis.
Still other schools have had to ban devices that JUULs can pass for. The Upper Dublin school district in eastern Pennsylvania has had to ban USB drives altogether because students were using school-issued laptops to charge their JUULs up for their next hit.
“The problem with the juuling device is they say they are manufactured for adults, but it is manufactured in a way that appeals to children,” Deborah Wheeler, the district’s superintendent, told the Virginian-Pilot. “Students don’t realize it is still dangerous and harmful to their health.”
Parents, school administrators, and even the FDA are concerned that the JUUL’s popularity among teens is quickly creating a new generation of addicted smokers. Just because it doesn’t include tobacco, doesn’t mean that the JUUL’s nicotine pods are GOOD for you. However, as I’ve written many times before, teens brains aren’t developed enough even as sixteen or seventeen years old, for them to properly comprehend the consequences of actions like these. They don’t see themselves as nicotine addicts now or in the future.
Jenny Sexton, a substance abuse counselor for the Arlington, Virginia school system, says she shares the concern that teens don’t really know what they’re getting into with JUULing. She believes that some think the pods are benign, that nicotine alone can’t hurt you. She also says that the pods CAN be refilled with even more harmful and unregulated substances like THC oil (an extract of marijuana).
Despite pressure on local vape shops to crack down on fake IDs to make sure their customers are old enough to purchase JUUL products, teens still seem to be able to get their hands on them very easily. For one thing, many high school students ARE 18 already, and many online shops who sell JUULs only require you to check a box saying that you ARE 18 to purchase.
(So parents, watch your kids’ online bank accounts for suspicious charges!)
Moms and dads, once again it’s on us to be vigilant and KNOW about these devices so we can make sure our kids don’t HAVE them. Nicotine is one of the most highly-addictive substances our kids can use, and thanks to JUULing, it’s now easier than ever for them to hide the habit. So be in the know, and don’t be afraid to violate your child’s “privacy” in the name of their HEALTH.