Youth e-cigarette use in the United States has skyrocketed to what the U.S. Surgeon General and the FDA have called “epidemic” levels, driven largely by Juul e-cigarettes. In 2018 alone, e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78%, to 20.8% of students.

“When kids say, hey mom, everyone is doing it, in this case, it’s really true,” said Meredith Berkman, Co-founder of Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe). “This is the most serious adolescent public health crisis that we’ve faced for decades.”

The main cause of this epidemic is Juul, an e-cigarette that looks like a USB drive, comes in sweet flavors that entice kids and delivers massive doses of nicotine.

“These are very, very highly addictive products, delivering, very efficiently, huge amounts of nicotine,” said Berkman. “Kids still don’t get that this can harm their developing brains. It can cause cardiovascular damage. The high school bathroom is now called the Juul room, because that’s where kids are doing this in school.”

There are some policy changes that can help, beginning with raising the age to legally possess products like Juul.

“Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a great first step,” said John Schachter, Communications Director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Now, 18 states and over 480 cities and towns across the
country have raised the age to 21. That will help end the pipeline of these products getting into the high schools and certainly, the middle schools.”

Schachter also said states can ban fruity and candy-like flavors to make the product that was designed for smoking cessation to not become a smoking alternative for kids.