A vape pen with twice the nicotine of comparable devices is taking over high schools — and adults are frightened

  • The Juul vape pen, an e-cigarette that comes with a vaporizer and pre-filled containers of nicotine liquid, is soaring in popularity.
  • Young people appear to be especially drawn to the device, which is discrete enough to hide.
  • Juul is emphatic that its product is made to appeal to adults looking to switch from smoking to vaping.
  • On Wednesday, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb cited concerns with e-cigs and called out the Juul by name.
Vaping is becoming increasingly popular, and now a vape pen that’s small, discrete, and easy to use is taking over high schools — and the e-cig market.

The Juul (pronounced “jewel”) appears to have a loyal and growing following among young people, who brag on social media about being able to sneak puffs in class or in the bathroom. But it’s not just teens who are using it — the device represents a third of the market share of the total e-cig category, according to Nielsen data, meaning a large share of adults are also turning to the Juul.

Compared with smoking conventional cigarettes — a process that involves setting ablaze a handful of tobacco, tar, and toxic metals — vaping seems objectively healthier. Nothing is burned — only heated — and tobacco doesn’t need to be involved at all.

But vaping still comes with health risks, and these risks may be especially worrisome for young people.

“The people that are marketing these new devices claim that their main focus is to reduce the risk of smokers, and I agree, vaping probably represents a reduction in risk from smoking,” Ana Rule, a professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University and an author of a study on e-cigs and teens, told Business Insider.

“But they fail to address the increased risk to this huge market they are creating among teenagers and young adults that never have smoked, and would have never even considered smoking,” she added.

‘Juul’ing

Among teens, the Juul is not just a noun. It’s also a verb.

Instagram and YouTube are full of videos of teens posting clips of themselves vaping, or “Juuling,” in class and in front of teachers; a string of high schools along the East Coast has acknowledged”Juuling” in bathroom stalls as a widespread problem, and dozens of teachers report confiscating Juul devices disguised as Sharpies and other classroom items.

The problem has drawn the attention of scientists who’ve been called into high schools to give presentations on the health dangers of the Juul; leaders at the US Food and Drug Administration, who are struggling to come up with a way to regulate the device; and members of Congress.

On Wednesday at a conference organized by the media outlet CNBC, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he was “deeply concerned” with teen use of e-cigarettes and specifically cited the Juul, saying, “We see what’s happening with Juul.”

That comes just a few weeks after Frank Pallone Jr., a Democrat representing New Jersey, called on the agency in a letter to start reviewing the Juul — which he cited by name — along with other e-cigs. Because of a current rule, many recent e-cig manufacturers are not required to apply to the FDA for review until the summer of 2022.

“The availability of JUUL and e-cigarettes to youth is extremely troubling,” Pallone wrote.

Gottlieb added that the agency plans to take action soon.

Ashley Gould, Juul’s chief administrative officer, told Business Insider that the soaring interest in the device among youth runs counter to Juul’s mission.

“Juul is a company that was started by smokers with an objective to switch smokers to non-combustible products,” Gould said, adding that the company is vehemently opposed to anyone under 18 using their products and even has a number of campaigns aimed at addressing and curbing underage use.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance — one analysis ranks it below heroin and cocaine but above barbiturates (anti-anxiety drugs) and alcohol. Some 85% of people who try to quit smoking on their own relapse.

Some evidence suggests that e-cigs may be helpful to adults who are looking to quit smoking. But research also suggests that vaping is an appealing habit to teens, and that those who pick up a vape pen are at a greater risk of smoking conventional cigarettes than those who never vape.

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Read more at www.businessinsider.com

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