This article is adapted from the Truth Initiative article “4 things parents need to know about JUUL and nicotine addiction.”
For those of you who are parents, there’s a new four-letter word you need to know: JUUL. It’s a brand name, a noun and even a verb: JUULing. It refers to a popular new e-cigarette that is reigniting concerns about nicotine addiction in youth.
We’ve seen lots of healthy discussion here on EX about e-cigarettes and their role as a quitting method. JUUL’s manufacturer says its product is marketed to help adult cigarette smokers quit, and we’re interested to hear whether you have experience using it in your quit.
But for those of you who are parents, there are good reasons to be concerned specifically with how much JUUL appeals to teenagers, and the increased risk of nicotine addiction that e-cigarettes may pose among youth. Here are the key things to know:
JUUL is “everywhere”
For those of you who are not familiar with it, here are the basics. JUUL manufacturers make about 20 million devices per month. The JUUL device looks like a USB memory stick and is relatively inexpensive. The cost for a new pod is $4 to $5 — less than a pack of cigarettes — after an initial outlay of about $35 to buy the JUUL product.
It has two components: a rechargeable heating element and a replaceable cartridge or pod. When charged and puffed, a solution contained in the pod is heated to create a vapor designed to be inhaled into the lungs. Each pod contains a high amount of nicotine, as well as benzoic acid, glycerol and propylene glycol, and a flavor, such as crème brulee, mango, fruit medley, cool mint, classic menthol or classic tobacco.
With its slick design and lower price point, JUUL has captured 68 percent of the e-cigarette market in just two years and caused alarm in schools across the country.
JUUL is easy to hide
JUUL is easy to hide from parents and teachers because it looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port. It also does not produce a strong odor. These characteristics make it easy for kids to use is discreetly, especially in school. Kids can hide it in their pocket and take a couple of hits in a bathroom or even in the classroom. In fact, almost one-fifth of middle and high school students have seen JUUL used in school, according to a Truth Initiative® survey.
Kids are attracted to flavored e-cigarettes and believe they are less harmful
Flavors in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, have been proven to attract kids. Research shows that young people are more likely to try flavored e-cigarettes and believe that they are less harmful than tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes. Many youth e-cigarette users also incorrectly believe they aren’t consuming nicotine when they vape. The majority of youth e-cigarette users think they vaped only flavoring, not nicotine, the last time they used a product, according to an annual national survey of more than 40,000 students from the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future study.
JUUL is incredibly addictive
While e-cigarettes are less toxic than cigarettes, they still contain toxins and the addictive chemical nicotine, which is harmful to adolescent brain development. The adolescent brain is also more susceptible to addiction. The amount of nicotine in one JUUL cartridge is roughly equal to a pack of cigarettes, or about 200 puffs, according to the product website. That’s double the concentration of nicotine found in other e-cigarettes, the American Academy of Pediatrics found.
Teenagers who use JUUL and other types of e-cigarettes are more likely to use combustible cigarettes.
Pediatricians are still learning about JUUL
Detecting and monitoring JUUL use can be a challenge for pediatricians. A Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control found that many young people refer to the use of JUUL as "JUULing," indicating that it is so distinctive, it is perceived as its own category.
As a result, the people who use JUUL don’t consider themselves smokers. They use the term ‘JUUL,’ and if parents and pediatricians aren’t aware of what JUUL is, they might not even ask the right questions.
E-cigarettes are putting an entire generation at risk of nicotine dependence. This is why Truth Initiative, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other public health and medical groups and individual pediatricians are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to take immediate action to address the rising popularity of JUUL among youth.
The bottom line for those of you who are parents: know about JUUL, ask about JUUL and be on the lookout for something that looks like a USB drive. We don’t want your kids to need EX down the road.