3 things Birmingham needs to know about the teen vaping epidemic, including ‘JUULing’

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The FDA recently categorized adolescent use of e-cigarettes as an epidemic. Photo for Bham Now
Does your child or friend use e-cigarettes? Vaping can be a trendy thing for adolescents to try. One look at #JUUL on social media chronicles an alarming trend among teens. You might not know because it’s easy to hide.

Flavored nicotine products, sleek packaging and easy access may seem appealing to minors, and that’s a big concern to Children’s of Alabama. Here’s more on e-cigarettes and teens.

E-Cigarettes Are Big Business

In 2016, the e-cigarette market was estimated at $11.43 billion and is expected to grow over $86.43 billion by 2025. One of the most popular companies in this market is called JUUL.

JUUL is an electronic cigarette device that is small enough to fit in a closed fist and resembles a USB flash drive. 

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JUUL devices heat up a cartridge containing nicotine solution to create vapor. Photo, caption via truthinitiative.org

1. The FDA Is Alarmed

The JUUL e-cigarette device remains popular among adolescents because it’s discreet and looks like a flash drive. Up until recently, there have been little FDA regulations on marketing and advertising e-cigarettes, and that’s helped to fuel this alarming trend, too.

“JUUL has been such a game changer,” said Dr. Susan Walley, Associate Professor of Pediatric Hospital Medicine for Children’s of Alabama.

“JUULing is a little different than the older models of e-cigarettes that we associate with vaping that often had open systems that you add the e-cigarette solution into chamber.”

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JUUL devices for sale at a convenience store. Photo via countertobacco.org

2. How To Quit Nicotine

Dr. Walley urges teens and parents to talk with their pediatrician when it comes to nicotine. No matter what the form, it’s not a safe choice. For those minors who have developed a nicotine habit, Dr. Walley said that pediatricians may choose to use the nicotine patch and gum for teens, but it is not FDA approved for teens less than 18 years old.

Quit Guide App Phone v2 3 things Birmingham needs to know about the teen vaping epidemic, including 'JUULing'
The QuitGuide app, via the CDC.

The CDC offers an app for quitting nicotine that helps users understand their patterns while teaching nicotine users skills to quit and stay smoke free.

3. No More Marketing To Kids

In a big effort to halt the sale of these products to minors, the Food and Drug Administration recently called teen use of e-cigarettes an epidemic. One way they’re enforcing this national mandate is by focusing on specific companies that market to adolescents, including JUUL.

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E-cigarette solutions come in many different flavors, with sweets and desserts as popular options. There’s so many more e-cigarette devices and products out there than JUUL, too.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine, and they are the most common tobacco product used by youth,” Dr. Walley emphasized. The e-cig solution and emissions are known to contain volatile organic compoundssome known to be cancer-causing that include heavy metals, ultrafine particles and nicotine.”

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of alabama, e-cigarettes, vaping
The packaging for flavored-nicotine solutions can look very kid-friendly. The FDA is cracking down on e-cigarette packaging that appeals to children. Photo of  Juice Box by One Mad Hit via eCig-City

4. E-Cigs Companies: Comply Or Bye-Bye

With so many options and products easily accessible online, that means kids and teens can (and do) get a hold of electronic cigarettes with ease. The temptation comes in many forms, including how the products are marketed.

“Some of that terminology really appeals to youth,” Walley said. “There are e-cigarettes marketed like apple juice, and even the marketing strategy on the bottle looks exactly like a juice box.”

Recently the Food and Drug Administration agency gave companies that make the most popular e-cigarettes among teenagers 60 days to prove they can keep the devices away from minors. They are specifically targeting these businesses:

  • JUUL
  • Vuse
  • Blu
  • MarkTen XL
  • Logic

If the businesses don’t comply, the FDA said it may pull the devices from the market.

“Industry must step up to this challenge,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement. “They say they’ve changed from the days of Joe Camel, but look at what’s happening right now, on our watch and on their watch. They must demonstrate that they’re truly committed to keeping these new products out of the hands of kids and they must find a way to reverse this trend.”

Children’s of Alabama, remains committed to improving the health of children in Birmingham. Check out our last partnered post with them about sepsis.




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