A high school senior’s video on the trend of “juuling,” a kind of e-cigarette use that is popular among teenagers, has highlighted how appealing and addictive e-cigarettes — specifically the “JUUL” — can be to teenagers, with kids as young as 14 talking frankly about using the device. In April, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb highlighted what the agency was doing to stop e-cigarette use among teens and what steps it has taken to stop online sales of JUULs to minors.
The video, produced by 17-year-old Jack Waxman, a high school senior in Westchester, New York, begins with the statement, “the following production is a message to America.” The video features teenagers who talk about their JUUL use, how they began to use it and why they use it.
“I kind of need it, it’s just a part of my life now that, like, I know it’s bad but I can’t stop,” one 14-year-old girl says in the video.
Another 14-year-old girl has a story that may be even more remarkable: When she does her homework at night, she has her pencil in her right hand and her JUUL in her left.
Here’s five things you need to know about JUUL-use:
What is a JUUL?
A JUUL is a type of e-cigarette that looks like a USB stick you’d plug into your computer and is a lot sleeker looking than other types of e-cigarettes. The device has replaceable pods that come in eight different flavors and according to the company that makes the JUUL, one JUUL pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
What are the restrictions to buying a JUUL?
E-cigarettes are not FDA-approved devices but the agency has set an age limit on purchasing the devices. Beginning Aug. 2016, the FDA said e-cigarettes and other “electronic nicotine deliver systems” can only be sold to customers 18 or older. Some municipalities have higher age limits for the purchase of tobacco products.
Why are JUULs attractive to teenagers?
Published literature says e-cigarette use is attractive to teenagers because the pods come in different flavors. At least two of the teenagers featured in Waxman’s video said if there were limitations on the flavors, kids would not be as attracted to the devices. The FDA references a 2013-14 survey that showed 81 percent of current youth e-cigarette users cited the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use.
The CDC says youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes. According to the CDC, in 2016, more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including 4.3 percent of middle school students and 11.3 percent of high school students.
What is the government doing to stop JUUL use among minors?
Last month, the FDA sent warning letters to 40 retailers for selling e-cigarettes, specifically JUUL products, to minors. The FDA says it has also contacted eBay to “raise concerns” over listings for JUUL products on the website. The FDA says eBay has removed the listings and implemented new measures to prevent new listings being posted. The FDA says it has also sent a letter to JUUL Labs, the company that makes the e-cigarette resembling a USB, to request information to better understand the youth appeal of the product. The FDA says it will also send similar letters to other manufacturers of products that raise similar concern.
What are the consequences of e-cigarette use among teens?
The CDC says that though e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, that doesn’t mean they are safe. E-cigarette aerosol can containpotentially harmful substances like nicotine, heavy metals and cancer-causing agents, the CDC said.
According to the United States Surgeon General, adolescents can get addicted more easily than adults and the nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime their brains for addiction to other drugs, like cocaine. The use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults is also linked to the use of other tobacco products, like cigarettes, the surgeon general says. Nicotine exposure can also harm the developing brain.
JUUL Labs told ABC News in a statement that its product was made for adults looking to quit smoking (though the CDC says there is insufficient evidence to recommend e-cigarettes as a method to stop smoking) and that no young person or non-nicotine user should try JUUL.
The company also recently announced an initiative to combat underage drug use.
JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns said in a press release that the company is committed to deterring young people and adults who do not currently smoke from using their products.
“We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL,” Burns said.
You can watch the video produced by Waxman below:
Image via California Department of Public Health
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