A recent trend in vaping has been making its way into schools around the country. Known as the “JUUL,” this e-cigarette has the size and shape of an unassuming flash drive, making it easy for children to get past their parents by hiding it among their school supplies. The vapor from these devices makes it easy for teens to use them just about anywhere; the cloud of smoke exhaled by users lacks the tell-tale stench of traditional nicotine smoke, replacing it with sweeter scents like cherry and vanilla. According to recent surveys, e-cigarettes have replaced traditional cigarettes as the go-to smoking device, thanks to their ease of use.
The JUUL was developed for smokers of both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes who would prefer to have something smaller, sleeker, and easier to carry around than a pack of smokes or a clunky e-cig. JUULs are small, slender, and provide smokers with a nicotine-containing vapor via small “JUUL pods” that, according to the company, “contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.” The devices themselves are relatively simple, using the internal battery to heat a liquid that contains nicotine into a vapor that is then inhaled by the user. The device itself can easily be recharged in a computer’s USB port.
The purpose of the JUUL is like that of any other e-cigarette company, to provide smokes with an alternative to cigarettes that’s safer for the user and the people around them. While some studies have been done showing that e-cigarettes are safer in some ways than traditional cigarettes, they haven’t been around long enough for long-term studies to discern their effects over the course of one’s life. It’s entirely possible that the vapor from e-cigarettes ends up being harmless; however, the opposite could also prove true in time. It’s generally wise not to inhale anything other than fresh, clean air (or as clean as one can get in the Los Angeles area), because human lungs didn’t evolve to scrub modern chemicals from the bloodstream or from the lungs themselves.
While e-cigarettes like the JUUL aren’t meant for anyone under the legal age, teens tend to get their hands on them, nonetheless, and easily become addicted to nicotine through repeated use. An addiction to nicotine is a powerful one, and it’s very difficult to quit – just ask smokers. The fact that the JUUL and other e-cigarettes offer a quick, easy fix that’s difficult to identify by parents and educators makes their use even more problematic. Where cigarette smoke can be smelled from several yards away through ventilation systems, under doors, and through open windows, e-cigarette vapor clouds are nowhere near as pungent, and often mimic the scent of body sprays used by teen girls.
If you’re worried about your teen getting their hands on an e-cigarette like the JUUL, and subsequently becoming addicted, the best thing to do is to talk to them. Peer pressure is huge among young people, and coupled with the desire to fit in, some kids can end up addicted without ever purchasing a device themselves. Explain to them the nature of addiction and the health risks that come from nicotine exposure. You can’t be around your child 24/7, but educating them against the use of products like this can help ensure you don’t need to be.