Teens Up in Smoke

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Teens Up in Smoke Waxhaw Police Alerting Community to Dangers of Juul

Earlier this year, Waxhaw Police officers suspected a group of teen friends were headed down the wrong path.  Master Patrolman II, Victor Montalvo, or “Officer Vic” as he’s known to most in the area, had reason to believe the high schoolers were either using drugs or vaping—and both are illegal and detrimental for minors. “We knew some stuff had been going on but, just by talking to people in the neighborhood who were concerned,” says Montalvo.

A break came when one teen left a backpack stocked with some troubling items—and the bag was handed over to Officer Vic. “We were able to link it back to a family, so we talked to the parents,” Office Vic explained. “Luckily, the parents became rightfully concerned and searched their child’s room.  They confronted their teen about the items they found, specifically Juuls and pods.”

What’s a Juul?

Juul is the brainchild of Juul Labs and is branded as “a satisfying alternative to cigarettes.” According to the company’s website, Juul’s mission is to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers.  But anyone who is a parent, caregiver, teacher, friend or has any relation to a teenager knows that kids under 18 are Juuling, or vaping,—and that number is growing rapidly.  It’s easy to see why. Juul looks like a sleek USB device, so it’s easy to hide from parents and teachers.  It delivers nicotine via Juul pods, cartridges of liquid containing nicotine that come in an array of enticing flavors, such as mango, crème brulee, cool cucumber and fruit medley.

One Juul pod has the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.  Experts warn that Juul and other vaping devices are making a new generation addicted to nicotine. Studies have shown that nictoine use has long-term effects on brain development—and can lead to smoking cigarettes or experimenting with other substances.  A December 2017 study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found that young adults use e-cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months as their peers who do not vape.

Educating Kids and Parents

Charlotte parenting coach Dr. Tara Egan says Juuling is on-par with other at-risk behaviors teens might engage in. “There are long-term ramifications of addiction and dependency, and kids and parents might not easily foresee the consequences of vaping.  There needs to be a lot more education about it to parents and teens alike,” she says.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees.  In April, it announced new enforcements to stop youth use and access to Juul and e-cigarettes.  The FDA is cracking down on e-cigarette retailers, aiming to stop sales to minors.  The FDA also has partnered with Ebay to monitor online sales of Juul products on its site.  Ebay moved quickly to remove the listings and has voluntarily implemented measures to prevent new listings.

Online sales is how most teens get their Juul. “Kids are buying it on the internet, right under their parents’ nose,” Officer Vic states. “They buy a bunch of Juuls and pods for a “Juul Run” then meetups are set up to sell the items to friends.  They use social media, like Instagram and SnapChat, to get their friends to come buy the stuff.”

In fact, teens are capturing their Juul use online daily.  Snaps of friends Juuling at a party, in their rooms or even at school are trending. “There’s a cultural piece to this that’s really troublesome,” says Dr. Egan. “Parents need to be proactive and educate their child prior to vaping becoming an issue.  They need to make sure they’re informed about the risks of the product and the marketing techniques used to attract users, so that kids aren’t fooled into thinking they’re doing something harmless.”

Egan says parent also need to be aware that these products are relatively common and more likely to be used if kids are left unsupervised, if they have the money to purchase it, and if they have peers who are using it.

Many children will experiment with risk-taking behaviors such as Juul. Once they’re “busted” and consequences are administered, they will discontinue use because their curiosity was satisfied and the consequences aren’t worth it. “If, on the other hand, the child has used these products to the point that an addiction has resulted,” Egan warns, “parents should reach out to a trained addiction counselor to learn more about services provided by specialists in the community.”

The Waxhaw Police Department agrees and wants to be proactive in educating parents and spreading the word about Juuling or vaping. “We noticed a trend in our community, and certain behaviors have come to light,” Officer Vic says. “We want parents to know what to be on the lookout for so they can help their kids.”

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Anna Prokos
As an author of more than 50 children's books, Anna Prokos enjoys crafting stories that engage, entertain and educate readers of all ages. She loves to coach aspiring authors, speak about writing and publishing, and edit manuscripts to help others get published. Originally from NJ, she and her family lovingly now call Waxhaw home.

To learn more, please visit a-to-z publishing.com