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Anti-tobacco officials warn of e-cigarette device

Photo Courtesy of Stacy Brooks

Alcorn and Tippah County Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition Project Director Stacy Brooks provides a sign made with flash drives and a JUUL device to point out how similar the device looks to a flash drive. (The JUUL device is "I".)

By L.A. Story lastory@dailycorinthian.com

A youngster could be smoking at school or at home and an uninformed parent or teacher would never know.

Originally launched in 2015, the Juul vaporizer, simply called "JUUL" (pronounced like "jewel"), is an e-cigarette which has gained popularity among adolescents.

The JUUL device looks similar to a USB flash drive and can even be charged in a computer's USB port.

A presentation by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states, "According to JUUL Labs, all JUUL pods contain flavorings and 0.7 mL e-liquid with five percent nicotine by weight, which they claim to be the equivalent amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs."

Alcorn and Tippah County Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition Project Director Stacy Brooks expressed concern at how the design can serve as camouflage to what a student is doing.

"You can go to school and see kids walking around with them [JUUL devices] in their mouths," said Brooks. "It looks like a flash drive, but they are actually smoking and it's odorless. We are trying to get into the schools and inform teachers."

Perhaps adding to the appeal is the fact that the JUUL pods come in pleasant flavors such as Cool Mint, Creme Brulee, Fruit Medley and Mango.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states, "According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.3 percent of high school students and 4.3 percent of middle school students-- over 2 million youth -- were current e-cigarette users in 2016. However, a study from Truth Initiative found that a quarter of youth and young adult JUUL users don't refer to JUUL use as 'e-cigarette use' or 'vaping,' but rather as 'JUULing.' Therefore, it is possible that existing surveys may not be capturing the full spectrum of youth e-cigarette use. News articles, letters from school officials, and anecdotal evidence indicate that JUUL has gained popularity among youth and young adults across the country, from middle schools to college campuses."

The Mississippi State Department of Health has a page on its website dedicated to the dangers posed to individuals, particularly adolescents, in regard to e-cigarette use.

The MSDH website states, "E-cigarette use, especially by youth, has increased rapidly since 2010. This increase is a growing health concern because the nicotine vapor produced by e-cigarettes can damage the brain and nervous system of children and teens, and harm the developing fetus in pregnant women.

"The full long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes are unknown. However, sufficient evidence exists to caution against the use of these devices, especially at an early age."

The MSDH information points out that the swift rise in the appeal is likely due to the sharp increase to "youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising in print and online" and the fact that "E-cigarettes are marketed in candy and dessert flavors that are especially appealing to children."

Brooks, along with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, emphasized the importance of getting information to the public.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states, "Educating youth about the dangers of JUUL and nicotine use is critical because a study from Truth Initiative found that 63 percent of 15-24 year old JUUL users did not know the product always contains nicotine (all pods sold from JUUL do contain nicotine)."