Juuling may seem like a foreign term to many adults, but chances are most young people have not only heard of it, they have been exposed to it.
A JUUL device looks like a USB flash drive, but is actually a brand of electronic cigarettes that is rapidly gaining popularity in Borderland and across the country.
The devices are stylish, odorless and can often go unnoticed when in use. In fact, they are so discreet that some students use them in classrooms. JUUL pods come in different flavors, making them an attractive target for teens and other young people.
“They taste like chewing gum, watermelon and cherry,” said Josh Koenig, a health teacher at Falls High School. “Look at how it’s marketed. “
Koenig, who is also a trainer and parent, said it was frustrating that teens didn’t see anything wrong with Juuling and were unaware of the harmful effects.
“People think it’s a safe alternative to smoking,” he said. “This is not the case.”
A JUUL pod contains roughly the same amount of nicotine as a packet of cigarettes, which sets off health alarms and raises concerns about students’ brain development delay.
Local school officials are trying to counter the upward trend by educating parents and discouraging young people from making a habit, but the task comes with challenges.
Since JUUL devices emit very little odorless vapor, it can be difficult to catch students using them. Falls Superintendent Kevin Grover said a few students were recently caught vaping on school property and disciplined as per school guidelines.
“It’s treated as a tobacco violation,” he said, adding that the punishment includes suspension from athletics for two weeks or two games, one day of suspension from school. and a report to the police if the student is a minor.
The superintendent said he imagines news of the cited students spread quickly and could make it seem like everyone was doing it.
Fortunately, this is not the case.
Beth Slatinski, coordinator of a planning and implementation grant, which focuses on alcohol abuse but may include other elements, said most students in the district are making healthy choices in avoiding habits such as Juuling.
“We live in a community where we hear about the few people doing what they shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “We want to change that conversation and let adults know that most kids don’t use … There are a very small number of Juuling, it’s just that everyone knows this small number.”
Still, Grover and Slatinski said the trend is concerning and is helping to raise awareness beyond school walls.
Part of the problem, however, is the lack of research.
“We are behind the industry,” Slatinski said. “The industry has developed more products than we realize. “
Grover said there haven’t been years of studies to determine the harmful effects of Juuling and the use of other vaping devices.
“So far (medical professionals) see three things with vaping,” Slatinski said. “They diagnose popcorn lungs, wet lungs and see cancer cases.”
Wet lung is also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome, or inflammation of the lungs. Likewise, popcorn lung is the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition that damages the smallest airways in the lungs, creating a cough and shortness of breath.
“There are high levels of nicotine in these products,” Slatinski said. “It goes into the system so quickly and so concentrated as if you were to have a traditional cigarette. “
Educators fear that many students are unaware of the harmful effects and swear by the cool factor.
Grover said that because e-cigarettes are marketed as an alternative for adult smokers, it gives the impression that they are safe.
“It goes back to a lack of knowledge,” he said. “We need to make people in the community aware of these products. “
When meeting with other grant coordinators in the region, Slatinski said everyone has seen some form of vaping in their schools.
At Littlefork-Big Falls School, Superintendent Jamie Wendt said the problem was hard to grasp.
“It’s everywhere,” she said, adding that the consequences of being caught at L-BF also result in a suspension. “Children have a way to hide it and can easily walk by without being noticed … We all need to be better educated.”
It appears, however, that not all schools in Koochiching County notice a problem.
Laurie Bitter, principal of the Indus School, sent an informational email to school staff in the Minnesota Department of Health last month warning against the use of e-cigarettes. When the Journal last week reported on Juuling at her school, she said it was okay.
“I haven’t heard too much about it here in Indus,” she said. “There hasn’t been anyone who has reported vaping.”
Northome School had a similar report.
“I have yet to face a Juuling or vaping incident this year,” said manager Jeremy Tammi. “I have had no staff or relatives to report incidents. I’m not saying that students don’t do any of these things, but I think it’s not very common in our school.
Juuling is not just a concern specific to high schools in the region. Civil servants also see it at the college level.
“Two years ago I knew a few college students who were vaping, but last spring I realized this was a trend that was developing much faster than I expected,” said Stephanie Turban, Manager of Partnerships for Success at Rainy River Community. University. “I would definitely say it’s something to be concerned about, but it’s important to remember that most students don’t.”
Much like high school students, many people Turban speaks to at RRCC are unaware of the harmful effects of vaping. Instead, they consider it to be safer than smoking cigarettes and don’t realize the health dangers it entails.
“They don’t realize how much nicotine they are consuming, especially if they are using JUUL devices, which contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” she said. “Because these are new products, it will take years to get the full picture. What we do know is that JUUL vaping liquid or pods contain nicotine which is addictive. This is of particular concern with use by adolescents, as their brains are still developing and nicotine can alter this development.
Laura Zika, a nurse from L-BF, said that now that she realizes that Juuling is a problem in schools and the community, she will initiate conversations at home.
“As parents, we need to educate our children and adolescents with the right information before they get their information from a different source, like their friends,” she said. “Don’t assume they haven’t seen or heard of vaping. Chances are they’ve heard of it or been exposed to it. “
Slatinski has echoed Zika’s advice and encourages parents and guardians to start or continue having conversations with their children to find out what they know about vaping.
“These first conversations are a step in the right direction,” she said.
“The more people we know and educate, the more people we will have watching,” said Grover, adding that the problem is something the whole community needs to be aware of. “We need parents to talk to children, parents to talk to each other and just continue education at the community level. “