Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 9:02am

Coming in several different styles, and with many different names, one fact is clear; e-cigarettes are growing in popularity and have the potential to addict young people to nicotine.

In September, the Federal Drug Administration declared electronic cigarettes an epidemic among young people, stating that e-cigarettes have become an almost ubiquitous and dangerous trend among teens. Locally, health officials are seeing the same trend. According to the 2018 Dane County Youth Assessment, almost 1 in 5 high school students are considered current e-cigarette users.

“Past Public Health policies have led to a drop in traditional cigarette use among high schoolers, from 33% in 2000 to an all-time low of 3% today,” says Nina Gregerson, Health Education Coordinator for Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC). “What’s alarming, however, is that traditional cigarette use is now steadily being replaced by e-cigarettes, which are not subject to the same regulations.”

JUUL is a new e-cigarette product that has become the most popular e-cigarette product used by young people. Users refer to using the product as ‘JUULing’. “JUUL is small in size and resembles a USB flash drive. In fact, local students have said that these products are easily concealed and used in schools, with many students using JUULs in classrooms and bathrooms without being caught. They deliver a high dose of nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development in adolescents,” says Gregerson.

“Kids my age are definitely using JUUL. Most kids are peer pressured to try it by their friends and continue to use JUUL because of how discreet it is and the fact that it is super addictive. When you look from afar, people don’t know what they are since they look like a USB. I think this is one of the main reasons why kids use these products—they can hide it from adults,” says an anonymous Dane County high school student.

In May of this year, PHMDC staff sent a survey to Dane County middle and high school principals, social workers, AODA coordinators, and nurses about e-cigarettes in their schools.

  • About 60% of respondents reported having confiscated at least one e-cigarette/JUUL from students.
  • Nearly half of respondents indicated that they have not yet provided their staff with some sort of education or training around e-cigarettes and/or JUUL.
  • All respondents indicated that they would like additional resources, training, curriculum, cessation resources, or information about updating their current school tobacco policy language.

Included with the survey sent by PHMDC was a video they created to educate parents and school personnel about the dangers of JUUL.

“These products are so inconspicuous that we’re doing all we can to educate school staff about them. We’re hopeful that schools will take steps to educate themselves, students and parents about the dangers of e-cigarettes and JUUL. The more people that talk to kids about them, the better. We also hope they will update their school tobacco policies to include e-cigarettes,” says Gregerson. Future plans include a follow up survey to ask schools what support they need to address this problem.

“We don’t know the long term effects of these products because they have not been around long enough, but what we do know is there is evidence to show that kids who use these e-cigarette products are more likely to switch to regular cigarettes in the future. Whether they are using e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, we don’t want to have another generation hooked on nicotine and tobacco products,” says Gregerson.

Young adults and youth e-cigarette and tobacco users who are ready to quit can call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-Quit Now (784-8669) to receive free help. It also should be noted that public and private insurance may cover the costs of smoking cessation medications, which can be determined by contacting the patient’s doctor or insurance company.

PHMDC is committed to helping parents and educators address this issue. Contact Nina Gregerson at (608) 243-0434 or ngregerson@publichealthmdc.com with questions or requests for assistance.

Contacts