Being a parent to teenagers these days comes with a unique set of challenges, not the least of which is keeping up with technology that has the potential to harm them.
Stealthily designed e-cigarettes or vape pens, like the JUUL, which looks almost exactly like a USB thumb-drive, give kids the same kind of cover to hide their nicotine habits that James Bond has in concealing poison darts inside an ink pen.
Adolescents are more and more unlikely to smoke cigarettes, but the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that a startling number of teens – one in four – are using “vape” products that contain either nicotine, chemical flavoring, marijuana or hash oil.
“The fact that e-cigs and other electronic nicotine products have surged in popularity with such an impressionable age group is extremely alarming,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, said in a recent statement.
JUUL Vaporizers, according to the company that sells them, use “nicotine salts as found in the tobacco leaf rather than then free-base nicotine, unlike standard e-cigarettes.”
Though some states have laws that e-cigarettes can’t be sold to minors, and JUUL is marketed as an adult product, it’s fairly simple for teens to purchase it online or just as easily get someone older to buy it for them.
The annual Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF), conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in cooperation with the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, found some of the following about adolescents and e-cigs in 2017:
- Among high school seniors, 1 in 3 reported past year use of some sort of “vaping” device
- The range of chemicals in the e-cigs, the survey found, ranges from nicotine to marijuana , to “just flavoring”
- Researchers also mentioned that most don’t actually know what type of chemicals are in the device they’re using to vape, saying few of them read warning labels and even if they did, not all labeling is accurate or consistent anyway
How Much Nicotine Do JUUL Pods Contain?
Each JUUL Pod, per the company’s website, contains around the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.
One issue with e-cigs that ex-smokers often complain about is managing their nicotine intake. With cigarettes, a smoker can count how many they’ve had, but that’s not possible with nicotine-vaporizers, and some find they actually increase their nicotine intake.
Consuming such a potent amount of nicotine, vaporized or not, sets teenagers up for a lifetime struggle with nicotine dependence, which can alter their neural pathways and increase the chances of addiction to other illicit drugs.
Reader’s Digest contributor, Elisa Roland, suggests the price of JUUL’s – a starter kit online goes for just under $50, with refill pods going for about $16 – might keep some kids away.
But any teenager with an after school, weekend or summer job, or even a decent allowance, wouldn’t have much problem “coughing up” the money to get their hands on the easily concealed e-cig.
What’s even more concerning are the number of enterprising youth and young adults that post videos online on how to “hack” the JUUL pods in order to swap out the nicotine or flavoring liquid with cannabis oil.
How Do We Get Kids to Stop Vaping?
What’s needed is another massive public awareness push similar to the anti-smoking campaigns that began in the mid-1970’s that informed and changed society’s perception of cigarettes.
There are currently anti-vaping campaigns in select areas of the country, but they’re not widespread yet.
In the meantime, parents of teenagers will need to keep abreast of the latest vaping technology, just in case their kids are budding spymasters like 007.