JUUL Labs has since responded to our story published in print and online. Their statement is in the story below.
Local school officials and parents are working to fight the vaping epidemic that is sweeping the nation.
Concerns have been raised about minors’ ability to get their hands on these devices, the long-term effects of vaping, and addiction.
Vaping, or e-cigarette use, has reached epidemic levels, according to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Adams issued an advisory recently about the dangers of electronic cigarette use among teens. The advisory speaks volumes, as they are rare. This is the fourth of his 10 years.
E-cigarettes are electronic products or devices that produce a vapor that delivers nicotine to the person inhaling from the device.
Vaping is the process of inhaling that vapor created from a liquid heated inside the device.
The vaping epidemic advisory came on the heels of the growing popularity of JUUL, which is an e-cigarette that resembles a USB drive.
JUUL is popular with minors. In part, because of the flavors.
JUUL reached out to the Sun with the following statement:
“We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated. That is why we have taken the most dramatic and aggressive steps of any other manufacturer in the industry to prevent underage use with the JUUL Labs Action Plan.
“We suspended the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to traditional retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading e-commerce site, exited our U.S. Facebook and Instagram accounts and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use.
"In addition, we strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products to 21. We look forward to working with lawmakers at the federal, state and local levels to achieve this end."
Most vape liquids contain a combination of propylene glycol or glycerol, nicotine, marijuana and flavoring chemicals.
E-cigarette pods come in flavors from mint to mango.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there has been a dramatic increase in teens’ use of vaping devices within the last year.
The findings are a result of the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey of a nationally representative sample of eighth, 10th and 12th-graders in schools nationwide.
Germantown High School Principal Wesley Quick said school officials didn’t know what the devices even were last year.
Use was rampant inside the classrooms, until teachers were notified by the Sheriff’s Department and knew what to look for.
“When JUULs came out, we honestly didn’t know what they were when we first saw them,” Quick said. “We mistook them for a USB flash drive, until the Sheriff’s Department reached out to us about it.”
Students were using the devices inside the classroom or hiding out in the bathroom to get a “hit.”
“It was definitely an issue last year,” Quick said.
According to the survey, approximately 37.3 percent of seniors reported “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to 27.8 percent in 2017.
The survey showed reported use of vaping nicotine nearly doubled, specifically in the 30 days prior to the survey, among high school seniors from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.
More than 1 in 10 eighth-graders say they vaped nicotine in the past year.
Reports of marijuana vaping also increased last year, at 13.1 percent for seniors, up from 9.5 percent last year.
There was also a significant jump in perceived availability of vaping devices and liquids in eighth and 10th-graders, with 45.7 percent and 66.6 percent, respectively, saying the devices are “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get.
The minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes or pods is 18.
Julia Chadwick, the head of St. Andrew’s Upper School, said vaping has been an issue with students on campus.
“It’s more widespread than I want to think it is,” Chadwick said. “We had an assembly about it. They don’t know the long-term effects of any of this.”
Chadwick said they have smoke detectors installed in all the bathrooms, which she said should pick up vaping.
Khalil Jackson, a senior at St. Andrew’s, said that he and some other students are working to combat the issue “to help the student body as a whole.”
Jackson is working with the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi and a team of students on campus to try to spread awareness.
“What we’re doing primarily is talking to younger students,” Jackson said.
The group meets with fifth-grade students to teach them about tobacco and e-cigarettes.
“We want them to understand that there are corporations trying to get their support and money to get them hooked to make a profit,” Jackson said. “We start with younger students to have a working understanding as they grow up to get ahead of the curve of peer pressure and curiosity.”
Jackson added that St. Andrew’s has a diverse student body, but he has not personally seen students use the substances on school grounds.
Chadwick said the school’s policy is to suspend students caught vaping on campus.
“I have had one situation where the student came forward and was not suspended because they came forward and were honest,” Chadwick said.
According to Chadwick, awareness and communication are key to dealing with underage vaping in particular.
“You can see the signs all over on store fronts,” Chadwick said of the availability of devices. “We encourage parents to have these conversations with students at home.”
She is concerned about the chemicals and amount of nicotine present in the pods used in these devices.
“I do know from reports this past summer, students in many areas were having withdrawals,” Chadwick said.
Quick shares Chadwick’s concerns about the accessibility of vaping products.
“It is not illegal for someone under 18 to possess a JUUL, but illegal for them to purchase it,” Quick said. “Gas stations and convenience stores market to our students.”
Quick said the district is focused also on raising awareness about these devices and communicating openly with parents.
One student has told Quick that they are more addicted to vaping with a JUUL than dipping.
Quick has also worked with former Rep. Cory Wilson on legislation to tackle vaping.
“The goal was to help deter and carry consequences for those who target underage students,” Quick said.
The policy for Madison County School District is to treat e-cigarettes the same way they treat tobacco. The consequence is out of school suspension.
“They’re aware that we know about it and that when we happen to have a student that is caught with it, we are going to deal with it,” Quick said. “I’d like to say it has decreased.”