If you are the parent of a middle or high school student, you know there’s a new trend every month, if not more often. Recently, JUULs (pronounced like jewels) and JUULing have become all the rage. You may have heard your teen or your teen’s friends talking about it, seen the hashtag #doit4juul on their social media, or noticed a few of what you thought were flash drives laying around their room.
JUUL is a brand of e-cigarettes that has a unique small, sleek appearance – it looks like a USB flash drive. It emits less vapor than traditional e-cigarettes and often smells sweet, making it the perfect choice for a teen trying to hide his e-cigarette use from parents and teachers. The JUUL charges on a laptop or other USB port and the disposable pods of nicotine juice come in fruity, mint, and sweet flavors, in addition to regular cigarette flavors like tobacco and menthol. Each JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.
Teens are often drawn to e-cigarettes because they seem like a safer alternative to traditional smoking – many believe they’re just inhaling flavors with no bad or addictive chemicals. But no e-cigarette product should be considered safe and most contain nicotine. Like all e-cigarettes, they should only be sold to people age 18 years and older, however, many teens find ways around this.
The developing teenage brain is vulnerable and prone to addiction. Nicotine, which is in almost all e-cigarettes, including JUULs, is highly addictive – many people who have used hard drugs say nicotine is the hardest to give up – and it has negative health impacts, especially for teens. It may impact their academic performance, make them more prone to respiratory symptoms, and more likely to smoke regular cigarettes.
Talk to your teens about e-cigarettes, whether you think they’re using them or not. Ask if they’ve heard about JUULing. Be informative but not condescending. Tell them about the serious health risks and, if they are using any type of e-cigarette, tell them how you feel about it and work with them to find healthier hobbies and activities.
If your teen isn’t concerned about his own safety, let him know you’re concerned about his younger sibling, cousin, neighbor, or family friend getting into them and being poisoned. Teens may try to hide JUULs, and young children want nothing more than to get into things they shouldn’t. Children also look up to and respect their older peers. If young children see a teen vaping, they may want to try it.
Families with children younger than 6 years old who use JUULs or other e-cigarettes should take precautions to keep kids safer. Liquid nicotine needs to be treated like any other poison in the home. If you vape, store vaping supplies – especially refill containers – up, away, and out of sight, preferably in a locked location. Don’t leave them lying around on the coffee table, in the cup holder in your car, or in your purse. Kids are curious and can get into trouble quickly with liquid nicotine. Save the National Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.