The University of Virginia Medical Center is getting the word out that use of e-cigarettes and JUULs risks nicotine addiction and exposure to carcinogens, heavy metals and dangerous chemicals.
“There’s this misconception that they’re okay and they’re not a tobacco product, but they are,” Connie Clark, a tobacco treatment specialist, said to several health care providers Wednesday at a talk sponsored by the Teen Health Clinic.
E-cigarettes, first widely available in 2003, became wildly popular with teens and young adults through the 2015 introduction of JUUL, a small vaping device that looks like a USB drive. While different e-cigarettes have different levels and use different types of nicotine, JUULs use nicotine salts to deliver the same amount of nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.
That amount of nicotine can be highly addictive, Clark said, but can also become even more dangerous when paired with sugary vaping liquids, a continuous hit, dangerous chemicals and deceptive marketing.
“Usage has increased so quickly in teens,” Clark said. “And they say, ‘oh, there’s no nicotine in it,’ which blows my mind. But JUULs use nicotine salt, which always has nicotine in it.”
Mary Sullivan, a teen health education coordinator at UVa’s Teen Health and Young Adult Center, said she is frequently contacted by parents worried about their child’s use of JUULs or e-cigarettes.
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