Hot on the heels of vaping comes the latest trend in teenage smoking is known as “juuling”. The term is derived from the brand JUUL, a discreet type of e-cigarette. Despite its seemingly innocuous name, the consequences of partaking in this activity could result in serious potential health risks.
What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered smoking device that uses cartridges filled with a liquid containing nicotine and other chemicals. When switched on, a heating mechanism in the e-cigarette turns the liquid into vapor. This vapor, although touted as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, contains less tar and carbon monoxide. However, the ease of use and economic appeal of these devices make it more convenient to use more often—and doctors are still weighing whether or not they are just as dangerous.
The JUUL device resembles a flash drive and is a big hit with teens and adults alike. Out of middle school and high school teens polled, 37 percent of high schoolers reported experimenting with e-cigarettes compared to around 13 percent of middle schoolers. As fun and sleek as ‘juuling’ is, it’s still a nicotine delivery system, and nicotine is still as deadly as ever. Each JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.
The dangers of nicotine vapors
The nicotine in e-cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals, and if your teen is vaping with fruit-flavored liquid, they could be even more harmful. Most of the chemicals found in e-cigarette liquid are listed under “flavorings” in the ingredients. These chemicals include acrylonitrile, a poisonous compound used in the manufacture of plastics, propylene oxide, a volatile liquid used in the production of polyurethane plastics, and acrylamide, which was referred to as a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program.
Since teens are reportedly vaping more than they’re using traditional cigarettes, they run a greater risk of being exposed to these harmful chemicals. Although the JUUL website requires you to be eighteen and older to purchase, the device has had no problem getting into the hands of younger teenagers. In fact, the issue of vaping at school has gotten so out of hand that schools in Kentucky, Wisconsin and California have already begun to amend school policy, and some schools have even gone so far as to ban USB drives completely because of how similar they look to the JUUL device.
What nicotine does to your body
People who feel anxious or stressed may crave a cigarette to calm them down, however, those feelings of relaxation are temporary and belie its stimulant properties. Upon first inhale, nicotine causes your body to release the “fight or flight” hormone, causing your heart rate to increase and your blood pressure to rise.
Nicotine is known to lead to insulin sensitivity and increased risk of diabetes. This is because nicotine changes your cell’s chemical processes so they don’t respond well to insulin. On the other hand, however, if you have diabetes and take insulin, nicotine may cause low blood glucose levels otherwise known as hypoglycemia. Because of this, the chemical behavior of nicotine is often considered a paradox.
How to talk to your teen about vapingToo many young people who ‘juul’ or vape have no idea they are inhaling nicotine. To ensure your teen knows the dangers of this activity, here are some ways you can bring up the topic:
- Get to the root of the issue by asking them what they know about ‘juuling’ and its effects. Often teenagers partake in trends simply for the fun of it, so knowing why they started will help you figure out how to guide the conversation.
- Explain the dangers of nicotine and that the real problem is how much they’re inhaling – not necessarily the device.
- Research the effects of e-cigarettes together, and come up with a game plan to wean your teen off of the device. Refer to a physician’s advice if necessary.
Get more tips on talking to your kids about e-cigarettes. Learn more about smoking cessation classes and resources at Swedish.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.