JUULing popularity among teens, young adults has experts, authorities concerned

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - The FDA is calling it an e-cigarette epidemic when it comes to young people. The administration is targeting what's called JUULing.

A JUUL may look like a USB but it's actually a trendy piece of technology. Officials say while JUULing is less harmful than actual cigarettes, they are not completely harmless.

"A pod of JUUL contains the nicotine equivalent to 20 cigarettes so they contain a lot of nicotine,” said Associate Dean for Research at UNMC, Mohammad Siahpush.

Data show that over the past year, the rise in JUULing has increased dramatically.

JUULing is a type of e-cigarette that has become especially popular with teens and young adults. Siahpush said that there are two main reasons these types of e-cigarettes have risen in popularity: They contain flavorings like all types of e-cigarettes; and they are shaped like a USB flash drive, unlike other e-cigarettes.

"A child can have it in his or her bag and take a puff in the classroom even without being noticed because they don't smell like smoke,” Siahpush said.

Siahpush said while it was argued that e-cigarettes could be useful for current smokers as a smoking substitute, the use was never meant for children because the high amount of nicotine in a JUUL is more harmful to younger people.

“Nicotine is harmful to kids because it harms the developing brain of a kid, a teenager, or a young adult. The brain develops until the age of 25 so it affects it negatively,” he said.

Even with research showing these negative effects, Daniel Simerly said while he doesn't use e-cigarettes he knows friends who do. When you are sitting and hanging out a lot of people tend to do it,” said Simerly, “I never saw it happen during class or anything and never inside the school usually it was almost always outside of class when we were hanging out at night."

Siahpush said that teens who regularly use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking or use other more serious drugs in the future.

After this report aired, JUUL issued a response:

JUUL Labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.

Our mission is to improve the lives of adult smokers by providing them with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. Appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch. By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors, and we will continue to engage with the FDA to fulfill our mission.

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