What Parents Need to Know About Juuling

Originally designed as an alternative for adult smokers, JUULs (or electronic cigarettes) have a cool design and flavors like mango and mint that are attracting teens and young adults in droves. Since its launch, JUUL has become one of the hottest e-cigarettes on the market, quickly earning the nickname "the iPhone of e-cigs." They've also taken social media by storm and gained somewhat of a cult-like following among teens and young adults.

In fact, there are more than 50,000 posts under the hashtag #JUUL on Instagram alone not to mention the countless YouTube videos and tweets. Plus, JUULs have a sleek, USB-like design, which not only makes them attractive to young users but also easier to hide from adults, while discreetly taking puffs whenever they want. Clearly, JUUL has taken on a life of its own with people now referring to using one as "JUULing" (pronounced "jewel-ing") rather than vaping.

What parents need to know about juuling
 Verywell / Alexandra Gordon

What Is JUUL?

Generally speaking, JUULs are portable, battery-powered devices that convert a liquid into vapor and are designed to mimic the physical and sensory experience of a cigarette but packaged in a sleek, cool design. When using JUUL, the user inhales the vapor from the device that delivers a nicotine-laden flavor without the smoke and tobacco of a traditional cigarette.

Because a vapor comes out instead of smoke, people - especially teens and young adults - believe that JUULs are a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. But they are not completely safe, despite what many people have been led to believe. In fact, one JUUL pod has as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.

What's more, according to the American Lung Association (ALA), the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes, including JUULs, as a safe or effective method for helping smokers quit.

Additionally, the JUUL device is rechargeable. With its sleek, USB-like design kids can pop it into their laptop or portable charger to charge. For this reason, many parents and teachers do not recognize JUULs as anything other than a USB device. And, with no distinct smell like cigarettes, JUULs make it that much easier for teens to Juul (or vape) in school - sometimes even in the classroom.

Consequently, it is not surprising that a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that e-cigarette use among high school students rose from 1.5% to 16% between 2011 and 2015 and from .6% to 5.3% among middle school students. What's more, more than 2 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2016.

Health Risks Everyone Should Know

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), the FDA provides no oversight on the manufacturing of these products. What this means is that there are no regulations when it comes to potentially harmful ingredients. Additionally, many young people are unaware of the dangers associated with juuling. In fact, most believe they are just inhaling cool, flavored vapors and nothing more. But, it is never just vapors being absorbed by their lungs.

For instance, the ALA reports that many e-cigarettes, including JUULs, contain acrolein, an ingredient that causes irreversible lung damage. Vapors from JUULs also contain other irritants, chemicals, toxins, and nicotine. In fact, JUULs contain nicotine salts, which the ALA reports may make the product even more addictive than traditional cigarettes.

Plus, juuling may exacerbate asthma and other lung conditions. In fact, one study found that vaping or juuling not only causes lung irritation much like that seen in smokers and people with lung disease but also damages vital immune system cells.

Another risk with juuling is the impact it has on the heart. When you take a puff of a Juul, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. This then can result in circulatory problems and increase the risk of a heart attack or heart disease.

Researchers also are concerned that juuling is a gateway drug. There is an increased risk that kids will not only start smoking traditional cigarettes, but the nicotine in JUULs impacts the adolescent brain in such a way that it makes cocaine and heroin that much more rewarding if they should happen to experiment with drug use.

Additionally, because teen brains are still developing, nicotine has the potential to impact multiple aspects of their brain function including their attention span. Consequently, many teen users report not being able to sit still for long and often have cravings for additional puffs from the device. Juuling also impacts memory, concentration, learning, self-control, and mood.

What's more, unlike traditional cigarettes, the long-term effects of juuling are unknown because the devices were only recently invented, so, compared with the plentiful public health data available on traditional cigarettes, there are no long term studies to refer to. But, researchers do know what nicotine does and it is not good for the teenage brain. For instance, nicotine can act as a neurotoxin and alter brain chemistry. When this happens, the brain no longer functions normally.

Other Dangers Parents Need to Know About

E-cigarette use among young people has reached epidemic levels according to the ALA. In fact, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth and have been for several years. Here are some other dangers specific to teenagers.

JUUL comes in teen-friendly flavors

Whether it is mint or mango, the tobacco industry has used flavors to attract young people for decades. What's more, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), teens and young adults indicate that the flavors are the most common reason that they experiment with e-cigarettes.

Another issue with juuling is that kids who do not already smoke or have no interest in traditional cigarettes are juuling or vaping. In fact, smoking among teens is at an all-time low. But with juuling bursting onto the scene, an entirely new generation of people are getting hooked on nicotine.

Juuls may be more addictive than cigarettes

The AAP reports that the nicotine concentration in JUULs is more than double that of other e-cigarettes. As a result, this high concentration of nicotine poses a significant danger to young people when it comes to addiction. In fact, the risk of addiction is so significant that the U.S. Surgeon General has declared that nicotine in any form is unsafe for teens.

Juuling is growing in popularity

The company that makes and markets JUUL pods recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation, faster than any company including Facebook. Plus, teachers and administrators report that the number of kids juuling at middle schools and high schools is increasing.

Even though teens are too young to purchase the devices, they are finding ways to get them online and through their peers. As a result, they are not only juuling in classrooms, hallways, restrooms, buses and more, but they also are sharing them with their friends. The small size and discreetness of the JUUL makes it easy for kids to conceal their habit and hide the device from adults.

JUULs appeal to teens

Aside from all the fun flavors and popularity on social media, JUUL has a sleek design that appeals to teens and young adults who are always looking for the latest innovation. To many critics, the JUUL looks like it could be an Apple product. Plus, until recently much of their marketing and advertising contained youthful images that could easily appeal to young people. And, the packaging does little to convey the risks. For instance, the wording indicates that it is only 5% nicotine, which leads teens to believe that the remaining 95% is water or vapor.

What's more, juuling is in a category by itself. Most kids who juul do not consider themselves smokers nor do they consider themselves vapers. As a result, traditional messages about the harmfulness of smoking and vaping may not reach them because they do not think they are doing the same thing.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Juuling

Because so many kids are experimenting with juuling, it is important that parents take time to talk about the risks as well as offer tips on to respond to peer pressure. Here are several ideas for opening up a conversation and offering advice.

Get Educated

The more you know about juuling and vaping, the easier it will be for you to answer your teen's questions and to point out the risks at the right moment. But, if you go into the conversations not knowing much about juuling, including how to pronounce it, your kids might ignore what you have to say.

Avoid Lecturing

Too many times, parents say things like "Don't juul. It's bad for you," or "Juuling causes popcorn lung and cancer." While these things are important risks kids need to know about, these statements also usually cause teens to tune you out. These statements do not invite a conversation about what your kids are seeing and experiencing at school and with their friends. Instead, try asking a general question like "Do a lot of kids at your school juul?" or "What has been your experience with kids juuling at school?" Once the conversation is started, you will get a better sense of what they know or what they think they know about JUUL. Then, you can start educating them in a casual, conversational way.

Listen to Them

While many teens may have no interest in trying JUULs, some will experience peer pressure especially if they desperately want to fit in at school. Listen to the challenges they are facing like fears of being ostracized or experiencing relational aggression. They may even worry about bullying if they go against the grain in their peer group.

If they have tried juuling, try to understand their motivation. Juuling may have to do with the social benefit they believe they will receive. If this is the case, refrain from telling them to find new friends. While this is the case, in the long run, the thought of this can be overwhelming to teens who place a great deal of importance on their friend groups.

Strive to Understand

If you learn that your teen's friends are juuling, or even that your teen has tried a JUUL pod, you do not want to overreact. Remain calm and try to understand why it is happening. Understanding their perspective will help you know how to respond to the situation.

What to Do If Your Teen Is Addicted

If you are concerned that your teen is addicted to juuling, there are plenty of treatment options available. But, it is important to remember that being addicted to juuling can sometimes be more severe than traditional smoking. So, you do not want to take this issue lightly nor do you want to ignore it and assume they can just stop using the device.

Of course, the best plan of action is to talk to your teen's pediatrician about coming up with a treatment plan that will help your teen quit. You also may want to pursue finding an addiction counselor as well as a support group for your teen. But, in the meantime, here are some other things you can do to support your teen.

Throw Away All the Juuling Supplies

It can be tempting to try to wean your teen off JUUL pods, but unless your teen's doctor recommends that route, it is better to quit completely. It's also a good idea to discuss your teen's triggers. These are the things that make your teen want to juul. They might be people, places, smells, foods, or other things. Help your teen avoid these triggers. Doing so will make it easier for them to quit.

Understand Withdrawal Symptoms

Knowing what your teen will be experiencing is an important part of supporting them. For instance, nicotine addiction leads to very strong cravings for nicotine. So, your teen is going to feel challenged at times and want to give in. Be supportive and offer encouragement and assistance when they are struggling. Also, be on the lookout for headaches, crankiness, anger, depression, hunger, insomnia, and more. Remind your teen that withdrawal symptoms are at their worst during the first few days after stopping. They will start to feel better as the nicotine leaves their system.

Offer Support Items or Ideas

Support items or ideas are things your teen can do instead of juuling. Some examples include chewing gum, listening to music, hanging out with supportive people, playing board games or cards, and meditating. Other options include going for a walk or a jog, or starting a new hobby like making bracelets, painting, pottery, journaling, or drawing.

Encourage your teen to download apps and texting programs

There are numerous apps and other programs designed to help teens not only manage their cravings but also provide encouragement to stop juuling.

A Word From Verywell

Overall, teens need to realize how addictive juuling can be and that it can impact them in a number of ways. For instance, it affects their health, their performance in school and sports, and can lead to worse addictions in the future. To combat the impact of juuling is having on teens and young adults, kids need to be taught at an early age how addictive juuling can be and encouraged to remain nicotine-free.

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