Juuling has exploded in popularity

A Centers for Disease Control study found a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use by teens in just one year. The increase was so startling that the Food and Drug Administration announced a series of actions aimed at cutting underage access to vape products.

One new vape pen in particular, the JUUL, has exploded in popularity – making up more than half of all e-cigarette sales in the US. Although JUULs are thought to provide a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, they are still harmful to the body, especially when used by adolescents.

The JUUL device is made up of two parts: the actual e-cigarette and the pod. A JUUL pod typically contains flavoring (such as cool mint or creme brûlée) and roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The high nicotine content in a JUUL pod can deliver a “head high” when the device is used.

Nicotine is notoriously one of the most addictive substances in existence, and its large dose within a JUUL pod can cause harm to the body. Short-term side-effects of vaping include mouth dryness, dizziness, cough, dry eyes, increased airway resistance, chest pain, nosebleeds, vomiting, nausea, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. And if the use of nicotine is continued, its short-lived effects can develop into serious complications.

As with most addictive substances, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuit and releases dopamine. The “head high” that occurs while JUULing is not only because of the dopamine release in the brain, but also to the secretion of epinephrine. You may be wondering what dopamine and epinephrine are (or do). Put simply, dopamine is the feel good chemical released by our bodies – it makes you happy. Where epinephrine acts as a form of adrenaline.

Many parents don't realize their teens are Juuling. The JUUL is shaped like a USB flash drive and can fit in the palm of your hand. News outlets and social media sites report widespread use of JUULs by students in schools, including classrooms and bathrooms.

What to say to your teens:

  • Ask your teens what they know about “Juuling.”

  • Be clear that you’re learning about this issue together, but mention that vaping is not in your child’s best interest. Stress that e-cigarettes are not good for them and neither is becoming addicted to nicotine.

  • Emphasize that “Juuling” still means using nicotine, even with “only flavoring” options.