While the CDC confirms that from 2011 to 2017, cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students, a dangerous new trend is on the increase and rapidly taking the place of traditional cigarettes as a huge health concern for youth – JUUL e-cigarettes (also known as vape). JUUL e-cigarettes are being marked as safer and cheaper than traditional cigarettes, people are already reporting health issues caused by vaping and JUUL pods and some have already filed lawsuits as a result. I’m pleased to be partnering with ConsumerSafety.org on this sponsored campaign to be highlighting the dangers of JUUL-ing and vaping.
In my own town, students as young as seventh grade have been caught vaping in the middle school bathrooms. Many of the parents I’ve spoken with feel that this is an issue that doesn’t really need to be addressed until high school, but the middle school has done a fabulous job of letting parents know that this is an issue their kids are facing NOW and that conversations are better had sooner than later. Because of the false sense of security kids have around the “safety” of vaping, many who would never consider trying traditional cigarettes are dabbling with trying JUUL e-cigarettes. They are easily found at local drug stores, grocery stores and the many vaping stores popping up everywhere.
Because these are relatively new devices, many parents are not familiar with what e-cigarettes ARE, never mind their potential effects. What is vaping exactly? Vaping is inhaling vapor created from a liquid heated up inside a device. The devices have many names—vape pens, pod mods, tanks and e-cigarettes are just a few. The liquid they contain also goes by many names—it can be called e-juice, e-liquid, cartridges or pods. Most vape liquids contain a combination of propylene glycol or glycerol—also called glycerin—as a base, nicotine and flavoring chemicals. The devices are battery powered and contain heating elements that turn the liquid into vapor. Some strongly resemble harmless items like flash drives, making them even harder for parents to detect.
To clarify, JUUL is a particular brand that hit the market in 2015 and quickly gained a large portion of the vaping market. (In August of 2018, it was estimated that JUUL made up between two thirds and three quarters of the e-cigarette market.) JUUL pods come in a variety of flavors that make them better tasting and easier to tolerate than a traditional cigarette. Add in the fact that they are free of tar and some of the other substances that cause that immediate choking feeling when you try a traditional cigarette for the first time, and they are much easier to keep using and become addicted to. However, being free of tar does NOT make e-cigarettes a healthy alternative.
JUUL e-cigarettes contain a number of substances that cause concern. First is their high concentration of nicotine. One JUUL pod contains the equivalent of 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. While the main concern with nicotine is its addictive nature, it has also been shown to have adverse effects on several of the body’s systems.
There is an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders. There is decreased immune response and it also poses ill impacts on the reproductive health. It affects the cell proliferation, oxidative stress, apoptosis, DNA mutation by various mechanisms which leads to cancer. It also affects the tumor proliferation and metastasis and causes resistance to chemo and radio therapeutic agents. (from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
JUUL pods, in particular, contain an alternative form of nicotine than the original e-cigarettes did. The nicotine salts mimic the nicotine found in loose leaf tobacco and allow the user to receive a higher dose of nicotine making it potentially more addictive and more harmful.
Another concern is that JUUL does not disclose the “flavor ingredients” contained in their pods. A 2018 study in Pediatrics found that the components that give e-cigarette their fruity flavors contain high amounts of cancer-causing chemicals. (from pediatrics.aappublications.org)
The myth that e-cigarettes are a safe replacement for smoking traditional cigarettes also falls flat once you hear that kids who use e-cigarettes are 30% more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes within six months of the first time they vape.
There are many short-term and long-term side effects of vaping/JUULing. Short-term effects include, but are not limited to: ● Dry mouth ● Dizziness ● Cough ● Dry skin ● Itchiness ● Dry eyes ● Insomnia (mainly a quitting side effect) ● Nosebleeds ● Bleeding gums ● Increased heart rate ● Increased blood pressure
Long-term side effects include, but are not limited to: ● Deterioration of lung tissue ● Effects on brain development ● Lung disease ● Chronic bronchitis ● Insulin resistance
ConsumerSafety.org has put together this infographic on the dangers of JUULing. Take a moment and use it as a conversation starter with your child. Forward it to other parents who have children in middle or high school. My own opinion is that these companies are misleading our children and putting them in harm’s way for the sake of making a profit. They are convincing them that vaping is safe and without any health consequences down the road. As parents, it is our job to share what effects these poor choices now could have on their long-term health. It’s not a fun conversation to have, but it’s a necessary one.