Don’t let your kids be JUUL fools

Smoke from a JUUL e-cigarrette
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: FAWN GRACEY/BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Chances are your senior in high school has JUULed. In parent-speak, this means they’ve used the popular vaping pod-based nicotine e-cigarettes called JUUL. In my experience as a pediatrician, at least 70 percent of the juniors and seniors I meet have JUULed.

What you should know

As a parent, here are some JUUL basics you need to know.

  • JUUL e-cigarettes look like a USB flash drive. You or your child’s teachers may not even realize your child is using them.
  • Kids as young as age 12 JUUL. This means we need to start early to educate both parents and children. The 11-year-old check-up is the perfect time to discuss e-cigarettes and JUULing. By age 13, almost all kids in my practice can recognize a JUUL, and by age 15 already know how they work.
  • Teen’s brains are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction. One “pod” of JUUL equals a pack of cigarettes, and as little as a half a pod can addict a teen.
  • JUULs smell good, but are dangerous. There are now almost 8,000 flavors, including many that appeal to kids, such as “Crunchy French Toast.” Children have been injured or poisoned after touching or drinking the liquid in the pods. JUULs also contain many chemicals known to cause cancer, including formaldehyde, heavy metals and particles that can get stuck in the deepest parts of the lungs.
  • Your kids may be misinformed about the dangers of JUULing. Many think JUUL is only water vapor, and don’t know the heating coil can contain antifreeze, lead, cadmium and nickel. They also don’t realize that 99 percent of JUULs contain nicotine.

What can you do?

As a parent, there are many things you can do to keep your kids safe from JUUL and other e-cigarette products.

  • Start talking with your kids by age 11 about the harms and potential harms of these products. You can use this tip sheet from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help you get started.
  • If your child is already JUULing or using other types of e-cigarettes, read this blog for more information, including how to help them quit.
  • Make an appointment with your child’s doctor so they can learn about the health risks of JUUL and e-cigarettes from a medical professional.

About our blogger: Lester Hartman, MD, MPH, has been a pediatrician at Westwood/Mansfield Pediatric Associates  in Westwood for 32 years and is a member of the Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Boston Children’s Hospital (PPOC). He was integrally involved in advocating for legislation to raise the minimum legal sales of tobacco and vape to age 21, which will take effect incrementally beginning  January 1, 2019.