NEW YORK — In videos all over social media, more teenagers are using a new vaping device at school.
“The kids doing it in my classes are not discreet about it at all,” said Abby Bernstein, a senior.
“They can be at home. They can be at school. They can be any place. Plug it in, and nobody would know,” said Dr. Mila Vascones-Gatski, a substance abuse counselor for Arlington, Virginia, schools.
JUUL is a new e-cigarette, small enough to fit into a marker, resembling a USB flash drive.
“It has a cool factor,” Vascones-Gatski said. “Kids are attracted to it. It’s very easy to conceal. It doesn’t give much of a smell, so parents cannot detect it.”
Vascones-Gatski said JUUL is changing how middle and high school students vape. Last year, she confiscated one e-cigarette in six months. This year, it’s two per week.
“This year, all of them have been JUULs,” she said.
Like many e-cigarettes, nicotine pods for JUUL come in a catchy flavors such as crème brûlée and mango. One pod is equivalent to smoking about one pack of cigarettes.
Dr. John Spangler, professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, cautions that the long-term effects of vaping are not known.
“Since nicotine alters the way the brain develops, we are concerned about adolescents and even young adults using these products while their brain is still forming,” Spangler said.
On their website, the makers of JUUL say they are committeed to combating underage use of their product. They say their goal is to provide adult smokers an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Vascones-Gatski said she’s getting the word out about JUULing to educate students, parents and staff so the devices don’t end up in the hands of children.
The trouble is nicotine is as addictive as heroin, which means even casual vaping can lead to a lifelong struggle to kick a drug that’s bad for your health, even if you’re not getting it in cigarettes.