While vaping isn’t a new trend, teens in the U.S. do have a new word for it.
Juuling, which essentially means vaping, was coined after the popularity of The Juul e-cigarette. According to a report in Time, the vape made up 33 per cent of the e-cigarette market in 2017 Although these e-cigarettes are intended to help adults quit smoking, teens are quickly getting their hands on them.
For the most part, the vape’s “coolness” factor comes from its look: they are sleek, colourful and even have a trendy Instagram page.
They also don’t look like traditional e-cigarettes, and Time says that some mistake them for USB flash drives. But the larger problem with juuling is the nicotine addition, the site notes, and one Juul cartridge (about 200 puffs) has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.
Intended for adults
In April, after media reports of young people in the U.S. juuling, the company’s CEO Kevin Burns released a statement noting that underage use of his products is “never acceptable.”
“However, neither is it acceptable for those of us at Juul to not fully commit ourselves to helping the 38 million smokers in the U.S. and the one billion smokers globally when we believe we have the ability, technology and sheer wherewithal to achieve this goal,” he wrote.
“We recognize this is a difficult balancing act, and to be successful we welcome the guidance, dialogue and even intense scrutiny from those who also seek real solutions to both of these important issues. I absolutely believe that together we can achieve our shared goals.”
The company also launched a youth prevention initiative, which partly focuses on ensuring minors are not able to buy their products online, as well as working with schools to make nicotine use less appealing for youth.
But Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, says nicotine is addictive and although there has been progress around reducing the appeal of tobacco and cigarettes, there needs to be more done for e-cigarettes.
“We don’t want teens using vaping products, there is a concerning amount of misuse,” he tells Global News. “We need to have effective control on marketing.”
E-cigarettes in Canada are prohibited to anyone under the age of 19 and Alberta, Saskatchewan and the three territories don’t have any regulations on vaping and e-cigarettes.
A concern in schools
In a report for WTSP, Florida high school student Chase Wiley told the station Juuls are very common. “They’re everywhere. You walk into the bathroom and there’s a group of kids juuling and then they hit them again in class. They’re really prevalent.”
Another source, the station reports, is older siblings buying vapes for minors. “We have 18- and 19-year-olds coming in and buying Juuls in bulk. We now know they are splitting up the packs and selling them individually to younger teens,” vape store owner Leo Calzadilla told the news station. “It used to be only smoke shops that sold it, but now convenience stores and gas stations are selling it too.”
Sarah Butson, director of health promotion at the Lung Association, adds statistics show 23 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported using an e-cigarette in 2015. A 2017 study from the University of Waterloo found teens who used e-cigarettes were more likely smoke tobacco later in life.
She adds in general, statistics show more and more young people are vaping and because of the lack of research on products, there is also a lack of information around how beneficial e-cigarettes are for people who want to quit smoking.
“What we do know is that if you don’t smoke, you shouldn’t start vaping.”
A concern in schools
And because e-cigarettes come in all shapes and sizes and even flavours, experts say it can be hard for parents to figure out if their teen is vaping. Cunningham adds young people are also using e-cigarettes with cannabis — making it hard for parents even to know what’s in their teen’s e-cigarette.
Butson says the biggest thing parents can do is borrow from the lessons of tobacco.
“It’s important to arm young people with the knowledge and information about what these products are, what we know and don’t know, and how they may be targeted by marketing approaches so that they can be empowered to make informed decisions.”