I used to say that my generation was the last of the cigarette smokers. I witnessed the culture of smoking change vastly over my lifetime- from our parents smoking indoors to it eventually being banned in all establishments, even in public outdoor spaces. By the time I became a mom, most smokers I knew were actively trying to quit- a handful being successful. And e-cigarettes were only a thing used by smokers trying a new method to quit.
Then came vaping.
While the bathrooms at all schools may no longer reek of cigarette smoke, you might catch a whiff of cucumber, crème brulee, or mango- though its nowhere nearly as strong. Which is why students are able to get away with vaping around parents and teachers- some doing it right at their desk as the teacher goes over the pythagorean theorem.
The New York State Department of Health sent out a notice earlier this year to schools alerting them about the increasingly widespread use of electronic cigarettes by our youth. And while regulations have begun to take place in order to help curb the purchasing of these devices and flavored liquids, it’s feeling like the tobacco industry all over again- which is why cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris’ parent company invested $12.8 billion in Juul for 35% of its stock.
While the E-cigarette industry would have you believe they’ve done something great for former cigarette smokers, they’re turning a blind eye to the fact that there’s been a 75% increase in the the number of youth’s using the devices- some even reviewing flavors on their Youtube channels.
We’ve been here before folks.
Marketing to youth is nothing new. Take a look at some of the flavored liquids and you’ll see packaging similar to whipped cream, chocolate milk, even juice boxes.
And the worst part is- some studies have shown that youth who vape are more likely to try cigarettes anyway. After all, it’s still a nicotine addiction. Not to mention, the formulation of the e-cigarette liquids are not yet regulated, defective batteries have caused fires and explosions, and nicotine can change the chemistry of teen brains- affecting memory and concentration.
What Parents Can Do
The biggest thing parents can do is be aware and keep an open conversation with their children. Avoid the not my kid mentality and pay attention to your children and their friends. Make sure their teachers are aware that this is happening- the JUUL looks like a flash drive and can easily go unnoticed in the classroom.
Speak to your children’s pediatrician to see how much they’ve learned about the epidemic and if they can share the negative affects on our bodies. While it’s still too soon to see many studies on the damage done by electronic cigarettes- we all know that it’s coming.
And if you’re a JUUL user yourself, don’t be afraid to still talk with your children. Share your story- let them see the long term affects of a nicotine addiction and how the same company who got you hooked so long ago is now after them.
What We Can All Do
While regulations are rolling out to halt the use of e-cigarettes by tweens and teens, it’s still a reactive approach. The CDC created a new license to track JUUL sales, but we all know a local bodega that will not only have it, but also sell to teens. The CDC asks that people call 311 to report the sale of JUUL products so that inspectors from the Department of Consumer Affairs can drop in for an inspection.
Below are some quick facts about e-cigarettes and the aerosol that is inhaled. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.
Quick JUUL Facts
- JUUL is a brand of e-cigarette that is shaped like a USB flash drive. Like other e-cigarettes, JUUL is a battery-powered device that heats a nicotine-containing liquid to produce an aerosol that is inhaled.
- All JUUL e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.2
- News outlets and social media sites report widespread use of JUUL by students in schools, including classrooms and bathrooms.
- Although JUUL is currently the top-selling e-cigarette brand in the United States, other companies sell e-cigarettes that look like USB flash drives. Examples include the MarkTen Elite, a nicotine delivery device, and the PAX Era, a marijuana delivery device that looks like JUUL.
- E-cigarette aerosol is NOT harmless “water vapor.”
- The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including:
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead1
- It is difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain. For example, some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.3