Use of the best-selling e-cigarette on the market is spreading quickly throughout middle and high schools. The nicotine vaporizer, called Juul, looks like a flash drive; it can even be charged in a USB port. By the end of 2017, Juul sales made up a third of the e-cigarette market.
In 2016, California increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. However, access is easy given teenagers’ reliance on older friends or online sales on third-party sites like eBay or Craigslist, which are difficult to control.
Due to its size, bright colors, and vast array of flavors like crème brûlée and mango, the Juul is trending among middle and high school students. Additionally, the vapor dissipates quickly and creates minimal smell, making it easy to conceal. Teenagers have coined the verb Juuling to describe use of the device, which commonly occurs in or near restrooms and locker rooms, and even in classrooms — all shared on social media.
A Juul cartridge, or “flavor pod,” delivers about 200 puffs and contains about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Vaping can be highly addictive and potentially lead young users to take up cigarettes in the future. Additionally, although e-cigarettes may contain fewer toxic substances than traditional cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that vaping may still expose people to cancer-causing chemicals. (The chemicals used to create the simulated flavors, for example, have not been tested for the effects of vaping or long-term exposure.)
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to regulate tobacco products including e-cigarettes and cigars. The agency initially required manufacturers to provide information on their products’ ingredients for review within two years. However, the FDA extended the deadline to August 2021 for cigars and August 2022 for e-cigarettes and allowed manufacturers to continue to sell their products in the interim.
Several individual pediatricians and public health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative, filed a lawsuit in late March 2018 challenging the FDA’s decision. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, contends the FDA, in delaying product reviews for approval, is exceeding its authority under the 2009 tobacco-control act and violating the Administrative Procedures Act because it failed to give the public an opportunity to comment. The groups also argue that the delay allows flavored tobacco products that target children and teenagers to remain on the market.
In response to the Juuling trend, school districts are encouraged to review and revise their policies to prohibit the possession and use of vaping devices along with traditional tobacco products. District should consider seeking legal advice when revising its policies. Districts are also encouraged to provide information and training to its employees to recognize and identify Juul and other vaping devices. Preventive measures may include increased monitoring around restrooms and locker room areas.