Snapchat. iPhones. Emojis. Selfies.
Of all the things teens think are cool, e-cigarettes – and the JUUL brand, in particular – should be among the most concerning.
We know e-cigarettes are making their way into the hands of youth, who are curious, attracted to the easy-to-hide design and fun flavors like crème brulee, or influenced by their peers. JUUL is especially popular because they are sleek and resemble a thumb drive, with teens saying they are “discreet enough to vape in class.”
We also know teens and adults find e-cigarettes appealing because they still believe they are less harmful than other tobacco products. But that doesn’t mean they are safe.
Case in point: one significant new study of nearly 70,000 people revealed that daily e-cigarette use can double the risk of a heart attack. When you consider that e-cigarettes are increasingly becoming a gateway to smoking among youth, these studies should be a concern.
But your average teen isn’t concerned about their chances of a heart attack — or other major health concerns like cancer; they’re drawn to e-cigarettes like JUUL, which “has developed a cult-like following among youth and young adults, fueled by a strong presence on social media sites like YouTube.”
Still, the popularity of JUUL and other e-cigarettes should be alarming to the public health community, since we know that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and harm the developing brain, and that children using e-cigarettes are at an a increased risk of using tobacco cigarettes in the future.
Moreover, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2015. For the first time ever, teens are smoking e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes.
As concerned community members, we can advocate for regulation of e-cigarettes by the FDA, which has had the authority to regulate them since 2016 but has delayed implementation of key provisions. We can also share public health materials to build public awareness about potential harms associated with use of JUUL and other e-cigarettes. Several resources are emerging, including educational toolkit materials for teens developed by the Stanford University Department of Medicine, a Truth Initiative fact sheet, and a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fact sheet. Finally, we can get involved with local coalitions like the Galveston/Bay Area and the Wichita County TPCCs (Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions) that are working to pass comprehensive smoke-free ordinances and Tobacco21 laws that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products.
If you have any questions or want more information about what you can do in your community on this issue or other tobacco-related issues, please contact Steve at SRoss@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501.