Guest Post Written By Rachel Abrams, Managing Partner of the law firm of Levin Simes Abrams
JUUL is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 27.5% of high school children are vaping. To a teenager, JUUL is cool and harmless. It has a sleek design and resembles a flash drive. Vapes like JUUL, unlike traditional cigarettes, are extremely discreet, making it easy to hide their use and corresponding addiction from parents and teachers. JUUL doesn’t leave a harsh smell like cigarettes and the smoke plume quickly evaporates after a hit. Some teens get away with vaping in classrooms, but most can subtly JUUL in their school bathrooms or their bedroom. Flavors such as crème brulee and mango were aggressively marketed to teenagers on social media platforms before being banned from sale in many states, prompting JUUL to pull them from its website entirely. Unfortunately, the damage has been done and a new generation of nicotine addicts has emerged. Many teens cite the taste as a contributing factor towards their interest in, first use of, and dependence on JUUL.
The amount of pressure to vape has only intensified with every passing year. JUUL’s big tobacco-esque marketing campaigns directly targeted the youth market. Its social media advertisements showed young, attractive people having fun and socializing while vaping. JUUL also visited classrooms to “educate” students about the safety of its product is and how it is a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. While JUUL has since changed its marketing tactics, largely in response to lawsuits, community outrage, and concerns regarding governmental regulations, their propaganda already reached and influenced the teenage market. Studies show teens, and even pre-teens, believe they are inhaling flavored vapor instead of addictive nicotine. JUUL has taken over schools, resulting in an inordinate amount of peer pressure to use the product and fit in. It is impossible to say no when everyone around you is vaping.
Teenagers simply do not understand the health risks of JUUL and nicotine addiction. Despite sharing similarities with cigarette addiction, JUUL is a completely different beast. Parents need to provide tools and resources for their kids to quit. The goal needs to be for teenagers to appreciate why JUUL is so harmful and the long-lasting health impacts it poses so they can make the decision to quit. Parents need to be open and have an honest dialogue to help their kids realize how detrimental nicotine dependence is. We would like to think the same platforms JUUL used to misinform and entice teenagers can be used to educate and inform them of the risks. However, because information regarding risk and lack of safety is not anywhere near as glamorous and therefore unlikely to trend amongst teens, below are some tips on how to help your child stop JUULing.
- Do Not Panic and Get Angry
It is normal for parents to respond with anger when they find out their child is vaping. However, teenagers generally respond negatively when they are yelled at, shamed, and punished. The first line of defense for teenagers when they are accused of vaping is denial and they will cite to social media and their friends telling them JUUL is harmless. There is a plethora of information on the internet touting the comparative safety of JUUL and other vaping devices. Be sure you have perused pro-JUUL articles, and be prepared with articles of your own published by the FDA, CDC and the Attorney General.63% of JUUL users don’t know that JUUL always contains nicotine.
Another element parents should consider is that if their child is addicted to JUUL, they are not going to want to endure the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal from nicotine triggers anxiety and depression. Other withdrawal symptoms include irritability, nausea, constipation, intense nicotine cravings, sore throat, and difficulty concentrating. When confronted in an aggressive way about quitting JUUL teenagers are likely going to rebel, fight back and get angry. They will do anything to forgo withdrawal symptoms. Consider how difficult it is for an adult, whose brain is developed and can fully appreciate the fact of experiencing withdrawal, to quit smoking. Now consider those same hurdles being faced by a teen whose brain in still developing, is undergoing hormonal changes, and dealing with the pressures of young adult life among a plethora of other circumstances. Teen addiction is just as real, and just as difficult, as adult addiction. Parents need to be viewed as an ally and not the enemy. To achieve that goal, try arming your child with the data they need to make an informed decision about vaping.
- Educate Them. And Yourself.
We believe in a three-pronged approach regarding JUUL education. The first is explaining how products such as JUUL cause addiction. First of all, many users have no idea that there is nicotine in JUUL and believe they are inhaling flavored vapors. That is the first stigma we must get rid of. One JUUL pod contains 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. JUUL also contains more nicotine than other e-cigarettes and the company claims their product delivers nicotine up to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigarette alternatives. Every time your child takes a puff of their JUUL, dopamine is released in their brain. A dopamine release teaches the brain to repeat the same behavior until it is learned and automatic. After a few weeks of use, teenagers need a JUUL hit to feel normal. Nicotine also has detrimental effect on the development of the teenage brain. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, impulses, and decision making is extremely vulnerable to nicotine. This effects young people more as their prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until age 25.
Other than nicotine addiction, there are a multitude of health hazards that stem from JUUL use. There is a long list of side effects, including seizures, irregular heartbeat, peptic ulcers, dental issues, shortness of breath, increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, and lung spasms. There have also been instances of JUUL related deaths (link to Wakefield and Jenkins once filed).
One of the most common side effects is vape lung or popcorn lung. The medical term is bronchiolitis obliterans, which results from exposure to the chemicals in JUUL that cause inflammation and obstruction of the bronchioles, the smallest passage in the lungs. Vape lung results in symptoms such as wheezing, dry cough, shortness of breath, chronic exhaustion, and scarring to the lungs. The ingredients that compose the proprietary e-liquid consist of glycerin, propylene glycol, and a mixture of nicotine, benzoic acid, and flavor additives. Although chemicals such as glycerin and propylene glycol are deemed safe by the FDA it does not mean they are safe to inhale. For context, everyone knows water is safe to drink but it is unsafe to inhale.
JUUL’s ties to big tobacco need to be emphasized as well. To teenagers, people who smoke cigarettes are uncool and embarrassing. They reek of tobacco and it is common knowledge that cigarette smokers risk diseases such as emphysema, lung disease, and mouth cancer. Cigarette smoking is synonymous with an early death. As we all know, teens view vaping as completely different to cigarette smoking. What young adults do not know is JUUL accepted a 12.8 billion cash investment from Altria, one of the largest cigarette makers for a 35% stake. Altria is the maker and manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes. Altria’s former chief growth office, K.C. Crosthwaite become JUUL’s CEO in September 2019 and several other Altria’s employees started working at JUUL at the same time, including Altria’s former head of regulatory affairs, senior scientists, and sales managers.
- Tools and Resources to Quit
We believe in a multifaceted approach to stop vaping. There is no perfect solution to get your child to stop JUULing. In order to help them stop you need to try numerous methods concurrently to see what the best fit for your teen would be. We recommend several courses of action:
- Talk therapy: Speaking to a trained professional or a school counselor can be very helpful for teens and their families. A therapist can help your child get to the root cause of their nicotine addiction. There are also therapists who specialize in nicotine dependence and offer programs to help keep teenagers on track.
- Digital tools and programs: With the rise of digital apps, there are certain programs that have had success in helping teenagers quit vaping. This is Quitting, BecomingAnEx, and Truth Initiative are a few of the digital tools that we would recommend. They offer customized quit plans, text message support, interactive guides, medical expert advice, and access to an active community of those who have beaten nicotine addiction.
- Extracurricular activities and hobbies: Returning to old hobbies or finding new extracurricular activities is a highly recommend course of action. Hiking, sports, meditation, and yoga are some activities that help teenagers curb their nicotine desires and offer a distraction. Spending time talking with your child about their passions and what they are interested in can help foster new goals. For example, if you know your kid loves animals then talk with them about volunteering at veterinary care center.
- Nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, especially for teenagers. Sometimes they are unable to successfully wean off JUUL and need more help. Speak with their health care physician about finding the best nicotine-replacement product. Most convenient stores sell nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges that can help ease withdrawal symptoms. Make sure to remind them that nicotine withdrawal symptoms peak after a few days and then slowly decrease over a month-long period. If they can understand that the worst symptoms pass after just three days then it can be easier for them to picture the finish line.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: There are numerous types of therapies that can be helpful in stopping nicotine dependence. One popular and effective method is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). It focuses on redirecting people’s thoughts and cravings towards the urge to vape. CBT tends to examine unhelpful thought patterns that lead to vaping, while learning more effective patterns to help quit.
- National Institute of Health call line: The National Institute of Health offers a call line and online chat system that provides support to those trying to quit nicotine. You can connect online with a nicotine addiction specialist at National Cancer Institute LiveHelp or you can call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to speak with a trained counselor.
- Electronic vape detectors: It is difficult to know when someone is vaping as it is odorless and only leaves a small plume of smoke. However, you can purchase an electronic vape detector that can detect vape smoke while monitoring the air quality. You can install these in bathrooms, bedrooms, and schools. The Halo IOT Smart Sensor is an example of an electronic vape detector on the market.
JUUL is extremely addictive and accessible but that does not mean there aren’t options to help your child stop. Having an educational and open dialogue with your kid can help them understand the damaging effects nicotine has on their health and brain development. It is important to not react with anger and to listen to what your kids have to say about JUUL. There are plenty of options to assist young adults in overcoming nicotine addiction. If you or a loved one suffered a serious help problem after vaping or JUULing, contact us to learn more about potential legal action.