The new, potentially deadly craze every parent needs to know about

Principal tells Juul users, 'You are volunteering for cancer'

LONGWOOD, Fla. – Parents, listen up. Many have heard about vaping, but there's a new craze among teens and preteens that is raising concerns: Juuling.

Teens tend to believe Juuling is a safe alternative to smoking, but News 6 has learned otherwise.

Anyone who spends any time on Instagram has likely come across the hashtag #DI4J, which means "Do it for Juul," or "Do it for Juuling." It's rapidly becoming the "in-thing" among adolescents and teens.

But what exactly is it? A Juul is a relatively new device that looks more like a USB drive than what it really is: a compact electronic-cigarette. Its size, along with the fact that Juul vapor is hard to detect, makes it a nightmare for school administrators.

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“It’s not like cigarette smoke where it lingers or cigar smoke where it lingers and you know specifically what it is,” Dr. Jordan Rodriguez, the principal at Rock Lake Middle School in Longwood, said. “It’s very easy for somebody who hasn’t been exposed to it enough or isn’t aware of it enough to not even think twice about it.”

When it was introduced about two years ago, Juul was touted as a game-changer in the e-cigarette world. Wired magazine called it “the first great e-cig” and Men’s Fitness magazine said it was “the iPhone of e-cigs.” Part of the appeal was the fact that Juuls were compact, potent and didn’t explode (remember when that was a thing?).  

Juul cartridges, also known as "pods," come in different flavors, like mango or crème brûlée. And those tiny pods pack a wallop, each holding the equivalent of 200 nicotine puffs, about the same as a pack of cigarettes. 

“What’s concerning about Juuling is it’s easy for these kids to hide,” Dr. Shoba Srikantan, a critical care physician with Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, said.

Srikantan told News 6 that new research has revealed cigarettes and e-cigarettes share some of the same chemicals linked to serious health problems. 

“The study showed that five carcinogens that are found in cigarettes were found in these kits in smaller doses -- and these are the carcinogens that later on lead to cancer (then) to heart disease,” Srikantan said.

The FDA has banned most flavored cigarettes, but has made no similar move to ban flavored vape modules. That type of “non-action” is disappointing for advocates like Vince Wilmore, with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“There are over 7,000 flavors of e-cigarette on the market, including flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy,” Wilmore said. “Those are flavors that clearly appeal to kids.”

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Srikantan said it opens the door for more dangerous habits later in life.

“As a pediatrician, it’s in a sense the new gateway drug for kids to say, 'Let me try this vaping, this Juuling,' and then they’re more prone to actually do the reverse and start using cigarettes,” Srikantan said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vaping use among teens and pre-teens is on the rise.

Between 2011 and 2015, the use of e-cigarettes among middle school students rose from 0.6 percent to 5.3 percent. High school student use was even worse, rising from 1.5 percent to 16 percent.

In 2016, the CDC said that more than 2 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes.  

“If you are willingly smoking, or if you are willingly vaporizing, what you’re telling me is that you are volunteering for cancer,” Rodriguez said. You’re comfortable volunteering for cancer.”

About the Authors:

Donovan is WKMG-TV's executive producer of digital enterprise