Ask any teenager if kids at school are “Juuling” and you’ll probably hear yes.
The “Juul” is a type of e-cigarette device that dispenses a potent dose of nicotine when the user inhales. Unlike an e-cigarette, the slickly designed device resembles a small USB flash drive and creates very little smoke, so it is not easily detected by teachers and parents.
“Unfortunately, the Juul is just another e-cigarette reiteration that dispenses the same old chemicals, including addictive nicotine. These chemicals are not harmless,” says Dr. Holly Middlekauff. She is a professor of medicine (cardiology) and physiology at UCLA who studies the health effects of e-cigarettes.
According to the Juul website, each Juul pod device is approximately equivalent to one pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it is cracking down on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors, including those under the Juul brand and other similar emerging brands such as myblue and KandyPens. The agency is also creating a Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to stop the use of, and access to, Juul and other e-cigarettes.
Middlekauff believes in providing teens with the facts so they can make their own informed decisions about vaping.
She produced an educational You Tube video as part of a community involvement project for her research with The Tobacco Related Disease Research Program. This program is funded from taxes on tobacco products in California.
The video highlights these facts:
1. E-cigs have only been around since 2003, so we don’t know the long-term effects on the body yet.
2. E-cigs deliver nicotine, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and releases rewarding neurotransmitters in the brain which can cause vaping to become addictive.
3. Nicotine is a stimulant that makes people feel more alert but causes cravings after the stimulant goes away. It also interferes with the body’s ability to make dopamine, a chemical that regulates the brain's reward and pleasure centers.
4. E-cigs contain chemical solvents that, when heated, can turn into formaldehyde, a cancer-causing carcinogen.
5. E-cigs are sold in thousands of enticing flavors. Some, like the butter flavors, contain diacetyl, which can cause irreversible scarring of the lung tissue; some fruit flavors have been found to be cytotoxic, which can cause cancer.
Studies show that people who start vaping or smoking in their teens are more likely to smoke as adults, Middlekauff says.
“Although we don’t know everything about e-cigarettes, we do know that using them can lead to changes in adrenaline levels that are associated with increased risk for a heart attack and fatal arrhythmias – even in people without known heart disease, says Middlekauff. “My advice? Don’t start using e-cigarettes in the first place.”