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Delaware health officials increasing awareness about hazy trend: "JUULing"

Courtesy of Mylesclark96 / Wikimedia Commons

State health officials are warning Delawareans of an e-cigarette trend that has youth fired up: JUULing.


A JUUL looks like a flash drive that plugs into a computer, which is why health officials are worried youth are vaping (or more specifically — "JUULing") in plain site.

Fred Gatto, the chief of the Health Promotion Bureau for Delaware’s Division of Public Health, says there is not a ton of research on the health effects of e-cigarettes, which is why health officials want to educate youth, schools and pediatricians about this trend.

“We have years of data on the dangers of cigarette smoking and tobacco use,” Gatto said. “Research is being done on e-cigarette use. So it’s too early to tell of the longterm impacts of e-cigarette use, but that makes it imperative that these products are not used by youth.”

The Division of Public Health says only about 10 percent of Delaware teenagers use cigarettes. About 23 percent use e-cigarettes.

Health officials want teenagers to be more aware that JUULs do contain nicotine, a highly addictive liquid. They also contain aerosol, which can cause asthma and chronic inflammation.

“They’re now being promoted as an aid to quit cigarettes and that they’re safer than cigarettes, but there’s really no evidence to prove that,” Gatto said.

And they’re discreet, making them difficult for educators to detect, said Anna Miller, a school float nurse with the Indian River District in Selbyville. Miller said she and other educators have had a “couple of encounters” in the district’s high school, regarding students JUULing, but could not specify what the encounters consisted of.

“How many kids walk around with a flash drive in their pocket at school? Probably 90 percent of them,” Miller said. “The idea of an e-cig type of substance that looks anything like a computer USB [drive] is going to be very, very difficult to detect right away.”

She continued, “If you and I passed in the hall and I were to pass you a pack of cigarettes, someone would see that. If I hand you a jump drive in the hallway, is anybody really going to pay attention to that?”

According to the Indian River School District’s student code of conduct, a student caught with an electronic nicotine delivery system – which includes a JUUL — would receive an in-school suspension as a first offense for the misdemeanor.   

After being caught a second time, the student could receive an in-school or out-of school suspension, or an alternative placement in another building.

State health officials say there’s no safe form of tobacco.

Their anti-JUULing campaign extends to schools, pediatric offices and wellness centers.

Since 2014, Delaware law has banned minors from buying e-cigarettes. The state’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits people from vaping in indoor public places.

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