Getting the buzz: juuling explodes as latest vaping craze

Published: Aug. 13, 2018 at 11:03 AM CDT
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Smoking rates have reached an all-time low in the United States, but a flavorful new trend of vaping is causing concern among health experts. Parents, if you've never heard of ‘juuling’ don't be surprised.

“It’s cherry. It's cool berry. It's whatever the catchy phrase name is seems to make it less intimidating, less dangerous, when in fact it is very dangerous for them to be using,” Prairie View Prevention Executive Director, Darcy Jensen said.

‘Juuling’. It's the latest form of vaping exploding among teens and young adults.

“Right away I just wanted to see what the fuss was about so I went ahead and tried one and they're awesome,” 20-year-old juuler Carlos Vazqez said.

The device itself is pretty simple. The JUUL heats up liquid nicotine in these capsules, better known as ‘pods’. Users then inhale it to get that buzz.

“It’s the nicotine in that product that wants you to go back. It’s like a stimulant when you first use it. It’s a draw in. That rush of the nicotine really is something that kids feel like 'oh that really gave me the buzz, gave me the feeling like I can do whatever else I wanted to do’,” Jensen said.

JUUL was originally marketed to those looking to quit smoking.

“They give that good nicotine buzz for everyone. Honestly I think it’s kind of cool,” Vazqez said.

“If I’m ever out with my friends, in some instances a couple of my friends still smoke, so it's really helpful to have that right there. Otherwise I get tempted to have a cigarette and this has enough nicotine in it to where if I’m hanging out its good,” 28-year-old juuler, Cory Luther said.

With twice the amount of nicotine as other e-cigarettes, health experts are concerned. Some users said they go through a pod a day.

“Whether it's cool mint, cool cucumber, or food medley that's where the attraction comes from the kits,” Sanford Pediatric Pulmonologist Amit Jain said.

Each pod, contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

“Once you start using this product, it’s trendy to use juuling but then hard to get off because the nicotine is one of the most addictive products,” Jain said.

One of the things people said they like about ‘juuling’ is how inconspicuous it is because of the devices size and the amount of smoke it emits, but that can cause its own set of problems.

“Unless someone is actively looking for it or being precautious and saying what are those students doing or what are those teens doing, it might not really be able to be seen. It’s so small. You can hold it up to you and not see much. Really when I have it in my hand like this, unless you were seeing my hand clearly, you probably wouldn't even see the product,” Jensen said.

Many people are ‘juuling’ in the most common places.

“The scary part is you can carry this device anywhere without being noticed. You can go in schools where most of the consumption is going on. It's like a flash drive,” Jain said.

“I can imagine why kids would do that just because of how small it is, but no I haven't myself witnessed anyone ‘juuling’ in class,” one juuler said.

Many of those users becoming addicted by the time they get ready to graduate high school.

“The bulk of population are those who have never smoked before and now they are using these products. So it’s kind of making new smokers,” Jain said.

In South Dakota the numbers are staggering.

“What we've seen say over the last six months is a significant increase in the number of kids who have reported ‘juuling’,” Jensen said.

In 2017, 42 percent of U.S. teen’s grades 9th through 12th said they've used an e-cigarette product like JUUL. Two years before that, South Dakota was already ahead of the national average with 41 percent of teens using the products. The Mount Rushmore state leads the way again. 17 percent of teens have used an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days. That's higher than the national rate of 13 percent.

“So what that tells me is when we get our stats now for 2017 for our state, I’m thinking the suggested amount will be much higher,” Jensen said.

‘Juuling’ is relatively new.

“I think we started to see it for our agency about a year and half ago,” Jensen said.

“We don't know the long term effects. There's not much data out there. It definitely has the nicotine which is addictive, so we have to be very careful regarding these products,” Jain said.

“When we look at the nicotine we know that that goes throughout the body. So we know that if someone is using nicotine products, we know that it can impact every single organ in their body over a long term period,” Jensen said.

Experts said the best thing moving forward is to try and reach those who haven't started ‘juuling’ yet.

“If we want to really help someone make a change, we have to be able to give them facts. Not just scare tactics, but truly facts about why this isn't good, why it might be a poor choice to use, and what could be the harm long term for them. So that they as a teen can make a healthy decision,” Jensen said.

Buying a JUUL online isn’t too difficult. Most sellers just require you to click on a button confirming you are 21. JUUL said it doesn't market to teens. The company also said it pledged $30 million over the next three years to fight underage use.