As students head back to school there is growing concern of vaping and the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers on school grounds.
Growing in popularity is an e-cigarette trend, known as “juuling.”
Juul e-cigarettes look like a flash drive that can store documents and data. Juul is odorless and can be smoked.
"It was a big issue, for them to shut down all the bathrooms. We didn’t really know what was going on until the principal announced on the speaker there’s too much vaping in the bathrooms," a student at Hall High School told NBC Connecticut.
Four bathrooms at West Hartford's Hall High School shut down in January of 2018 after the principal Dan Zittoun emailed students a message:
“We have received numerous complaints from students how uncomfortable it is to go into a bathroom where students are vaping.” Zittoun wrote. "We will be closing four bathrooms (two boys and two girls, C wing 1st floor, and 2nd floor between B and C wing) starting Thursday, January 4 so that security and administration can more effectively monitor bathrooms in hopes of minimizing the occurrences of vaping on school grounds."
Similar vaping concerns shared in a January letter to Westminster School Parents about the growing trend of e-cigarettes including juuling among teens.
"Studies suggest that, although teen cigarette smoking is down, the use of other nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes, vaporizer pens, or Juul pods (see links below for images) has significantly increased," wrote Westminster Dr. Davis Smith the Director of Health Services.
A 17-year-old who did not want her name used starts her senior year at Hall tomorrow and said she’s seen juuling happen in school.
“Some have issues about it but they’re afraid to speak out about it,” she said.
And while Connecticut law says teens under the age of 18 are prohibited from purchasing such products, they are still making their way into schools, and many say the concern is still there at the start of a new school year.
“Particularly in our schools we are seeing an increased use. We have some statistics that show kids are now turning towards that instead of using the normal tobacco products,” said Capt. Mike Perruccio of the West Hartford police.
School resource officers in West Hartford were asked to meet with members of the community about the rise in teen vaping last spring.
“Now, were hoping kids get the word the product is bad for you and harmful for you,” Perruccio said.
Juul Labs, based in San Francisco, makes their e-cigs look like a portable USB drive. And despite signs they are adult only products on their website, students say Juul is a way to appear unsuspicious as school.
“It’s sort of the new fad, kids love to do things they can be sneaky about and conceal and these are very small discreet devices that look like a flash drive. Parents might not know it’s anything not related to school,” explained Dr. Tregony Simoneau.
Simoneau, a pulmonologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said they’re seeing a rise in teen use.
“Juuling in particular has a higher level of nicotine in the early years, particularly in the adolescent window, they’re more susceptible to addiction,” Simoneau told NBC Connecticut.
Steve Boyle is a former school counselor in West Hartford who works closely with students in his private businesses to keep them healthy and active. He said he interacts with kids who use Juul products regularly, and said he sees it as a marketing issue.
“It’s a global health crisis that’s only going to lead to more activity. we have to be able to communicate with kids the danger. But you know with young people the danger is attractive. And so we have to make sure marketing alternative healthy activity,” Boyle said.
“This is a partnership between the schools, the parents and community and we need to work together to help educate our students about their choices," Principal Zittoun said.
Juul Labs sent NBC Connecticut this statement:
"Cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. JUUL is intended for current adult smokers only. We cannot be more emphatic on this point: no minor or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. Our packaging includes a prominent nicotine label and clearly states for adult smokers.
"We are working closely with Attorney General Tom Miller and the group of tobacco control experts and public health officials he has assembled to help advise us on efforts to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people. We are investing $30 million over the next three years dedicated to independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement efforts. In addition, our other initiatives include:
- Our e-commerce platform utilizes unique ID match and age verification technology to make sure minors are not able to access and purchase our products online.
- We market our products responsibly, following strict guidelines to have material directed toward adult smokers and not to youth audiences. (Please read our Marketing & Social Media Code)
- We support effective legislation and regulation to prevent the purchase and use of our products by minors.
- We have reseller terms that include monitoring and penalties for noncompliance with underage restrictions.
- We actively monitor the internet and process thousands of enforcement actions per month. Our goal is to ensure only authorized retailers who are subject to our youth prevention controls are selling JUUL products.
- We support federal and state initiatives to raise the purchase age to 21+ to purchase tobacco products.
"We want to partner and engage with policymakers, lawmakers, educators and parents to combat underage use. We stand committed to working with those who want to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people.
The Connecticut office of Attorney General says they are working with other states on a number of concerns with Juul, including marketing practices and young people.