A new vaping device that’s “gone viral” on high school and college campuses doesn’t look like a vaping device at all, and one doctor warns the device meant as a smoking alternative could lead users to smoking cigarettes themselves.
The Juul vaporizer (stylized as “JUUL”) looks like a USB flash drive. It even charges when plugged into a laptop. It’s small enough to fit inside an enclosed hand, and comes with flavors like creme brulee, mango and fruit medley.
One Juul pod used in the device has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, the company has stated on its site. And in Knoxville, Tenn., some stores refuse to sell the devices because they don’t come with zero-nicotine options, local station WBIR reported.
Dr. Steven Masters, a family practice physician at Knoxville’s Summit Medical Group, told WBIR that the nicotine wallop packed into Juul pods could very well backfire for users. “Because it’s so addictive, when kids start using nicotine by any means, they’re going to get a good chance that they’ll get addicted to it and start smoking,” he said of the nicotine. “That’s a very real possibility.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has called Juul’s flavors too “kid friendly,” and the device’s popularity has adults wondering what can be done to address it. The rise of “gadgets like Juul, which can fool teachers and be brought to school, demands the FDA smoke out dangerous e-cigs and their mystery chemicals before more New York kids get hooked,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement in October.
An editor for New York University’s student newspaper documented Juul’s rising on-campus popularity, even in dorm rooms. A student newspaper at the University of Illinois called Juul a “new epidemic is sweeping across campus.” And in suburban D.C., a high school’s principal took doors off its bathroom stalls to keep students from using drugs inside —namely Juul.
Dr. Mila Vascones-Gatski, the substance abuse counselor at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., told The Arlington Connection that the affluent school has “a problem with Juuls compared to other schools.”
“We’ve even seen photos of kids vaping at school, because these kids document everything on social media,” she said.
Students plug the Juuls into their school-issued laptops during class to charge them, the Connection reported, and can fill the devices with marijuana, a homemade substance or Juul-issued flavor “pods,” which can deliver more than double the nicotine — and nicotine buzz — of other vaping products.
One Boston-area pediatrician said parents know too little about he health risks of vaping and Juuls.
“I’m seeing kids starting to get this. I’m seeing the marketing has entered into the kids and I’m seeing parents have no idea about these things,” Dr. Lester Hartman of Westwood Mansfield Pediatrics told local station WFXT.
Juul devices and pods can be ordered online from its website. A starter kit goes for $49.99 and asks you verify your age and ID information before buying. A spokesman told amNewYork Juul uses “industry-leading ID match” technology. Hartman, the doctor, said kids simply lie about their age and use a prepaid debit card, per WFXT.
Juul’s increasing sales have put its maker, San Francisco-based Pax Labs, in a bind, CNBC reported. The company reportedly churns out 20 million Juul-related products per month, but some stores can barely keep the product stocked. A strain in the supply chain followed, CNBC reported, along with complaints of product quality.
Josh Hafner/USA Today