Schools

“JUULing:” Addictive trend occurring at Mahomet-Seymour High School

*The student referred to in this article is a Mahomet-Seymour High School student. His/her name has been changed to protect his/her identity.

Teenagers smoking in the bathrooms of their high schools may seem like a problem educators and parents had to deal with decades ago.

But with new nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigs or vape e-cigs, teenagers throughout the United States are rediscovering what it means to “smoke” in the high school bathroom.

Including students at Mahomet-Seymour High School.

“It’s vape, not smoke,” said a Waltman*, a Mahomet-Seymour High School student. “So people can just air it out. It doesn’t really have much of a smell to it, so people do it in the bathrooms all the time.

“I know people that do it in the library, too.”

Ask any high school student about a new trend called “JUULing,” and they will immediately describe a growing trend that is causing concern throughout the medical community.

The term “JUULing” is derived from the company JUUL, which sells vaporized e-cigs meant to be a smoking alternative for adult smokers.

Instead of burning the tobacco plant to get the nicotine through a traditional cigarette, any e-cig or vape e-cig device heats up the nicotine liquid to a boiling point so that it becomes an inhalable vapor.

Unlike its counterpart, including brands of e-cigs and vape e-cigs, which often resemble a pen or a Sharpie, the JUUL device looks more like a USB drive, sometimes no bigger than 3 inches long.

Because of the sleek, compact design, which often resembles a school supply, and the odorless vapor, parents may not even know that their child is inhaling a drug.

For the first time, in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control saw decades of campaigns that educate students on the effects of smoking cigarettes take effect as the rate at which students said they had a cigarette within the past 30 days dropped below 10 percent to 8 percent.

Comparatively, in 2011, 15.8 percent of students in high school said they had a cigarette within the past 30 days.

But, the same report from the CDC showed a growing trend among high school students using e-cigs. In 2016, 11.3 percent of students said they used an e-cig within the past 30 days — an increase from 1.5 percent in 2011.

According to the JUUL website, a JUULpod contains “0.7mL with 5% nicotine by weight, approximately equivalent to 1 pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs.”

“A lot of these (vaping machines) have the ability to control how much nicotine is delivered, but none the less, we do know nicotine is an addictive substance,” said Dr. Stephen Rudawski, who practices Family Medicine at  Carle at Mahomet.

Although vaporized substances have been around for centuries, devices such as e-cigs and vaporized e-cigs have only been available to purchase since 2003.

“We don’t know about the long-term health consequences as a result of the inhalation of the accelerant that is used,” Dr. Rudawski said.

But the immediate health risks associated with the consumption of nicotine are something the medical community is familiar with.

Dr. Rudawski said that effects of the nicotine found in vaporized e-cigs can range from decreased resistance to upper respiratory tract infections, colds, bronchitis, and it can make asthma worse.

He also said that like traditional cigarettes, the presence of nicotine in the vape devices is known as a gateway drug to harder drug use.

Waltman said that Mahomet-Seymour students are also putting THC and CBD, two oils derived from cannabis (marijuana), in the vapor devices.

He also said that walking into the bathroom, being at dances or athletic events has become a problem because of the vapor that is left behind from the students who are exhaling the product.

“It’s really gross when you walk into the bathroom and I can tell they have been vaping,” he said.

“At the ’80’s dance, there was this group of boys, and they were just out in the open. And I was like,’What is going on? How is no one seeing this?’ ”

Dr. Rudawski said that while the second-hand vapor will not contain all of the chemicals that are a result of burning the tobacco plant through a cigarette, the exhaled vapor will likely contain the residual nicotine and leftover accelerant that was used to aerosolize the nicotine in the device.

“Is there second-hand exposure potential? Yes. Do I think it is harmful? Yes,” Dr. Rudawski said.

Like any other drug use among teenagers, it is hard to pinpoint students who might be most susceptible.

Dr. Rudawski said “kids wanting to experiment with risky behaviors has been around for years.”

“It’s smart kids, it’s kids who may be in the lower parts of the class, it’s just about any kid who is going to be susceptible to wanting to try this stuff.”

During the fall sports banquet, Waltman was surprised to learn that one whole Mahomet-Seymour team was in possession of a vaping device.

“The whole team was bragging about having a JUUL,” he said. “And I was like ‘really?’ Because they are really bright people and I’m surprised that they are the ones who have it.”

Waltman added that it’s not just athletes who are using vape devices. Some of his close friends use a JUUL to relieve their anxiety while at school because “their parents won’t get them the medication they feel they need.”

He also said that he believes students participate in “JUULing” because they are bored.

“They skip class to do this,” he said. “They think they are so cool. They are like, ‘Look at me in the bathroom, posting on social media.’ ”

Waltman said he does not know of students selling vaping devices on school property, but rather, students who are not 18 years of age will get a device or pod pack from an older sibling or a senior who is 18 years of age.

Because the device requires electricity to heat the substance to an inhalable vapor, Waltman said students have used school-issued Chromebooks to charge their device.

“I’m pretty sure the Chromebooks can tell there’s something plugged in and it records it, so that’s how (teachers and administrators) are finding out they have a (vaping) device,” he said.

But the charging of the device also causes another problem.

Dr. Rudawski reported that “there have been reports of these devices blowing up in (people’s) faces.”

The Mahomet Daily requested an interview with Mahomet-Seymour Principal Shannon Cheek to understand “JUULing” better.

Cheek issued the following statement: “ We have certainly dealt with various situations at the high school and have followed the protocol set forth in the handbook.  As we continue to be faced with different challenges regarding students and student behavior we collaborate with each other and also collaborate with other administrators in the area and in the Apollo Conference to gain different perspectives and problem solve.  Regarding student safety, we work with staff to provide the safest environment possible. “

By knowing the symptoms of nicotine use, parents can be vigilant, though.

Dr. Rudawski said that parents should be concerned if a child is coming home from school jittery, shaking, sweating or, if parents can notice, has pupillary changes. He also said nausea is a sign of nicotine poisoning.

But, Dr. Rudawski believes that the best action for a parent to take is prevention.

“If you get to the kids and they’ve already tried, you’ve already lost part of the battle,” he said. Having parents be involved, being non-judgmental, being open and teaching their kids about these harms, and about how these things can adversely affect their health, I think is one of the really good first steps.”

Research by Truth Initiative, an organization that seeks to educate on the effects of tobacco, found that 37 percent of teen and young adult JUUL users were uncertain whether or not a JUUL product contained nicotine, even though the marketed versions of the JUUL products do contain nicotine.

Although e-cig and vape e-cig products are marketed as a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, Dr. Rudawski said he does not recommend the devices for smoking sensations.

“I don’t see them as a safer alternative for smoking. And unfortunately, this type of delivery system, because you don’t smell smoke, necessarily, can, unfortunately, be more of a silent way for kids to get into smoking.”

*The student referred to in this article is a Mahomet-Seymour High School student. His/her name has been changed to protect his/her identity.

Here are some examples of vaping or e-cig devices students might have. There are many devices on the market.

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danitietz8

I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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