By Dr. Deborah Burton

What is JUUL?

JUUL is the most popular e-cigarette.
It is shaped to look like a USB drive, releases less smoke than other brands and has options to decorate them with colorful skins. Additionally, instead of pouring a liquid into a chamber, the JUUL has replaceable flavored pods…with names like Cool Cucumber, Mango, Creme Brulee, and Fruit Medley! These names encourage kids to consider the pods to be safe.

Oh my goodness. Check out this YouTube review of a JUUL pod called CoCo Mint. Can you imagine what your teenager would be thinking while watching this? Notice how he did not mention that they were vaping nicotine!

What is the difference between tobacco and nicotine?

Tobacco is a plant that contains nicotine. When it is smoked, nicotine leads to addiction, but the other harmful effects occur because of inhaling smoke. We understand the risks of tobacco in cigarettes, but children and parents both need more education about e-cigarettes and vaping.

Vaping nicotine is an increasingly popular activity, but many people do not fully understand that nicotine is still nicotine. Changing the delivery system does not change the chemical because the nicotine used in e-cigarettes comes from tobacco leaves!

Nevertheless, e-cigarettes (including JUUL) are often considered tobacco-free. Tobacco products are highly regulated by the government for health purposes; however few regulations in the United States exist for vaping.  Scientists and physicians aim to change that to avoid preventable health problems.

Both adults and kids incorrectly think that vaping is safe because you inhale and exhale vapor, not smoke like in regular cigarettes. But there are harmful chemicals in the vapor.

Long ago, regular cigarettes were found in vending machines in restaurants and stores; therefore, people did not realize the dangers associated with smoking. Now, e-cigarettes are sold in convenience stores while vaping and hookah stores are found in many shopping plazas and malls. Just because they are easy to find and purchase does not make them safe!

Many years of research has clearly shown the dangers of smoking tobacco; however, because e-cigarettes are new, they have only been studied for a few years.

Basic information about the difference between e-cigarettes and regular tobacco cigarettes can be found here.

Recently, at the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, Dr. Susan Walley, a  pediatrician from the University of Alabama at Birmingham gave an incredible lecture. This presentation moved me to rush home and record a podcast about it.

Take home messages about vaping nicotine products

  • Vaping was initially created as a way for adults to wean off cigarette smoking
  • JUUL represents about 70% of e-cigarette sales
  • Nicotine is a powerfully habit-forming drug which is found in both tobacco and e-cigarettes
  • Vaping products are produced to resemble candy and food items which entice kids to buy them
  • Children become addicted to nicotine faster than adults due to immature brain development
  • Teens are using their JUUL in schools daily which is leading to more disciplinary problems
  • Teens who vape have an increased risk (4x) of becoming tobacco cigarette smokers
  • One JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes
  • Second-hand vape smoke contains nicotine PLUS other toxic chemicals.
  • Parents should not vape around their young children
  • Cigarette smoking has decreased over the years but now a new generation is becoming addicted to nicotine>.

Additional sources of information on vaping nicotine

There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes, but it is important to understand the 5 Truths You Need to Know About Vaping.> Physicians are working hard to lead the charge in educating people about the dangers of vaping. Dr. Kristen Stuppy, an extremely active social media pediatrician. has written a comprehensive post detailing the concerns of vaping in children and Dr. Jill Grimes, a well-known family physician has detailed her concerns about how JUUL is not cool!

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Dr. Burton is a board certified Pediatric Otolaryngologist, otherwise known as Ear Nose and Throat. Her blog, Dr. Momma Says, discusses timeless topics on parenting and healthcare. Check her out!

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