Student Well-Being

‘Juuling’ Craze: Schools Scramble to Deal With Student Vaping

Use of Juul device makes vaping hard to detect
By Evie Blad — May 04, 2018 6 min read
Marshfield High School Principal Robert Keuther displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in Marshfield, Mass.

After years of aggressive anti-tobacco campaigns aimed at teenagers, students have largely rejected smoking, but many have tried vaping, sending school leaders scrambling to revise discipline policies and drug prevention classes to confront the new trend of inhaling flavor-infused nicotine vapor.

Adding urgency to those efforts: A small, sleek device that could be easily mistaken for a USB drive has joined the market of vaping and e-cigarette products. The device, called a Juul, has surged in popularity in the last year, in part because its low-profile design allows students to easily conceal their habit and inhale the flavored nicotine vapor in school restrooms, hallways, and even classrooms undetected.

Like many trends among teenagers, vaping and “juuling” gained a foothold among young people long before adults and school administrators realized the scale of the problem, principals said, and now they are rushing to catch up.

“I think it’s everywhere, and my school is no different,” said Francis Thompson, the principal of Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Conn. “I think it’s the next health epidemic for kids.”

Some students are open about their vaping habits, sharing Youtube videos about how to do tricks, like blowing rings and “ghosting,” slang for exhaling a plume of vapor and quickly drawing it back into the mouth. In some videos, students as young as 13 share tips for concealing Juuls and other vaporizers in the sleeves of their hoodies so they can be used in school hallways and in hollowed-out markers to carry them in their backpacks without getting caught.

“You get super buzzed off of it,” said Kyler, a teenager who posted a video about getting suspended for having a Juul.

Juul Products Contain Nicotine

E-cigarettes and other vaping products, like Juuls, are pitched as alternatives to traditional cigarettes for adults who want to kick the habit. But health experts and anti-smoking groups say they’ve quickly grown a secondary market among minors attracted to the novelty and flavors like mango, caramel candy, and gummi bear.

“It is crucial that the progress made in reducing conventional cigarette smoking among youth and young adults not be compromised by the initiation and use of e-cigarettes,” said a 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s report.

A student uses a vaping device near the campus of Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Mass.

Vaping can quickly lead to nicotine addiction, the report warned, which may lead some teens to start smoking traditional cigarettes.

In 2017, 5.4 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders reported smoking a cigarette in the last 30 days, according to Monitoring the Future, a nationally representative student survey administered by the University of Michigan. Twelve percent of those students reported vaping in that time frame.

Youth health advocates have long pushed for tighter regulations on the sales and marketing of e-cigarettes. In March, a group of seven public health and medical groups sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over a delay in implementing such regulations.

As that debate raged in recent years, new products emerged, like Juul, which currently makes up about 60 percent of e-cigarette sales tracked by Nielsen data.

The device, smaller and more discreet than its competitors, has attracted new users, some principals say. An April survey by the Truth Initiative, which advocates against tobacco use, found that 63 percent of Juul users ages 15-24 were not aware the product “always contains nicotine.”

Effects of Vaping

In April, the FDA responded to concerns by announcing an “undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes—specifically Juul products—to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers.”

The agency also requested data from Juul Labs, the maker of the product, to understand how the product is designed and used and whether its marketing specifically appeals to young people.

“We don’t yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, said in a statement. “But it’s imperative that we figure it out, and fast. These documents may help us get there.”

Juul Labs responded to those actions by announcing $30 million in prevention efforts targeted to youths, including a push at the state and federal levels to raise the minimum purchase age for all tobacco products to 21.

The San Francisco company also plans to work with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, to “develop a transparent and effective framework for independent research focused on the scientific and societal implications of vapor products.”

“We want to be a leader in seeking solutions, and are actively engaged with, and listening to, community leaders, educators, and lawmakers on how best to effectively keep young people away from Juul,” Juul Labs Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Gould said in a statement.

There’s no research about the long-term effects of vaping. While the cartridges used in vaping devices may contain fewer harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes, some newer models deliver roughly the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette, creating additional concerns, said Dave Dobbins, the chief operating officer of the Truth Initiative. So while vaping may be less dangerous than smoking, it’s still harmful, he said.

“Jumping off a 10-story building will kill you, and jumping off a two story building will only hurt you,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t recommend doing either.

The organization has added vaping to some of its public awareness efforts. “You’re not going to hear me say this thing is exactly like a cigarette. It’s not,” Dobbins said. “But there are a lot of concerns about it.”

Educators said they are also concerned that the devices can be used to consume marijuana and that some flavor cartridges don’t provide a complete ingredients list, leaving students unsure of what they are inhaling.

“For the longest time, nobody smoked; kids weren’t into that anymore,” said Brad Seamer, the assistant principal of Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, S.D. “With the vaping, kids are really into that. It’s not a certain kind of kids, it’s a cross-section of my school.”

Seamer says responding to vaping now takes up most of his time. He’s disciplined a student for using a Juul in a classroom. Some parents aren’t aware of their own children’s habits, he said.

A member of the advocacy committee for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Seamer led efforts to update the group’s position statement on smoking to include information about vaping, calling on schools to update rules and prevention efforts.

Why Vaping Is Hard to Detect in Schools

Thompson, the Connecticut principal, said vaping is more discreet than smoking because the vapor leaves less of a trail and the smells are harder to detect. He realized the extent of the problem a few months ago, when he sought to crack down on extended bathroom breaks students were taking.

The school shut down some bathrooms and tracked students’ use of others. In talking to students, Thompson discovered they were experimenting with the products in the school’s facilities and that some considered themselves addicted.

The 900-student school has disciplined about 40 students for vaping this year, Thompson said, issuing in-school suspensions as a consequence, which is the same punishment it uses for smoking.

Thompson recently supplemented that discipline with cessation and counseling efforts to help students quit and to make them aware of potential hazards. He’s also invited community health groups to the school to do presentations for teachers, parents, and students about vaping and nicotine use.

Thompson likened students’ vaping to concerns about social media and cyberbullying that emerged about a decade ago. It took a while for adults to notice the problem, but now they are taking it seriously, he said.

“When you’re dealing with teenagers, they’re way ahead of the curve.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2018 edition of Education Week as Schools to Play Catch Up To Rise in Student Vaping

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being 'Growth Mindset' Linked to Higher Test Scores, Student Well-Being in Global Study
The first global study of "growth mindset" found both academic benefits and better well-being among students who think intelligence is not fixed.
4 min read
Conceptual image of growth mindset.
solar22/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Why Venting When You Have Problems Feels Good—and Why It Doesn’t Work
When you keep talking about what’s bothering you, it keeps the negative emotions alive. Here’s what research says to do instead.
Ethan Kross
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being What the Research Says How Does Sending a Child to School Change a Family's Risk of COVID-19?
In-person schooling that doesn't lead to outbreaks can still raise the risk of kids bringing the virus home, especially in poor families.
3 min read
On Sept. 24, 2020, distance learners are seen on a laptop held by teacher Kristen Giuliano who assists student Jane Wood, 11, in a seventh-grade social studies class at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn. A new study finds a family's risk of infection rose if they had a school-age student when schools re-started in person instruction.
Students, assisted by their teacher Kristen Giuliano, work remotely and in-person in a hybrid classroom earlier this year at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
Student Well-Being Teens Are Starting to Get Vaccinated. That's a Big Deal for Schools
Educators are now encouraging their oldest students to get the vaccine, with the hope that it will help normalize school operations.
10 min read
17-year-old cancer survivor Jordan Loughan receives a Pfizer vaccination at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
Seventeen-year-old cancer survivor Jordan Loughan receives a Pfizer vaccination for COVID-19 in Atlanta on March 23.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP