Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
The 17-year-old Oakland High School Senior first tried a Juul after a friend gave him one.
It looked like a computer gadget, but the sleek The 4-inch device delivered nicotine vapors with sweet taste whenever it wanted. It did not trigger smoke detectors or smell of cigarettes. There was a smell of mango, mint or creme brulee.
Now, less than a year later, he meets a Juul dozens of times a day. He needs it, he says. At school, at home, hang out with friends.
He says he wants to stop. But if he gets by for too long without a hit, he gets headaches and body aches. He gets irritable.
"I tried nicotine chewing gum," said the teenager attending Bishop O & D Dowd, a college prep private school. "I tried patches."
But he can not. And, he says, many of his colleagues can not.
The graduating senior agreed to speak with The Chronicle about what he described as a dependence on nicotine on the premise that he is not identified.
E-cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative to flammable cigarettes, a tar-free way to break down nicotine. The vaping industry, which makes and grows about $ 1.1 billion in revenue annually, includes a large number of companies that say the products are not intended for teenagers or new users.
Nonetheless, health authorities have sounded the alarm in view of the escalating use of e-cigarettes, and especially juuls, among adolescents for a few years. The products, they say, come in hundreds of fruit and candy flavors – mango, sweet tart, watermelon, caramel cappuccino – and make them attractive to teens. More than one in four senior high school seniors used a vaping device in 2017 over 43,000 middle and high school students, according to a University of Michigan study .
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to sell Juuls to teenagers and asked Juuls Labs, the San Francisco maker of the product, to provide design, marketing and ingredient documents of the device.
In an email, Juul's Lab officials said the company supports efforts to reduce the product's access to adolescents and works with school districts and law enforcement agencies on prevention efforts along with a label on the packaging: "Alternative for Adult Smokers."
Students and educators say they've noticed juuls that hit the market in 2015 explode in schools last year. While Teen Vaping has been on the rise in recent years, Juuls seem to have initiated a cultural phenomenon among teenagers, a trend fueled by nicotine addiction, ease of acquisition and peer pressure pressure.
Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
As Juul e-cigarette popularity increases, parents, teachers and the Food and Drug Administration are affected.
As the popularity of Juul e-cigarettes soars, parents, teachers and …
Teens dazzle and personalize their juuls, buy colorful and designer "skins" to cover the otherwise electronically-looking devices. They publish videos and photos on social media, use Juul hashtags, and show how to sneak hits or steam tricks in the classroom, such as O-Blows. They bring a Juul at lunch from one freshmen to the next. At parties, juuls that light up after a shot are spun into glowing rainbow circles in the air.
Some young users wear shirts, hats and other products to show loyalty to the brand. They wear hoodies that allow stealth blows through the drawstring.
And Juul users have their own vaping dialect: zero, juuling, party mode, juul nation.
Unlike old-school cigarettes, Vaping is a collaborative experience of young people from the high schools and hierarchies – drama kids, athletes, band freaks, musicians, the straight-A students and the class clowns.
"It's not just a thing to do, it's a community, you do it, you're there," the student said. "I do not think I've met a single person in the last six months who does not vaporize."
At Bishop O'Dowd, freshers make lunch at lunch to let one through, the student said. Seniors meet after school in a cemetery to blow whirlwinds of steam into the sky. He has heard that the middle school students are also doing it, meeting in the big bathroom booths, something that is confirmed by education officials and youth surveys.
It's like being in a club, he said.
"You see a person with a Juul, and it's" Oh, Juul gang, "he said," It's almost like a way of dealing with one another. "
This sense of belonging can be a strong move, teenagers said a symbol of coolness to combat youthful fear.
Headmaster Maureen Byrne began to see Juuls and other steam products at Dublin High School this year.
She holds a box of e-cigarettes that were confiscated by students, to show them to parents and teachers who previously had no idea what they thought was a computer stick, or a flashlight is actually a Juul or Suorin or Vape Pen.
Photo: Photos by Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
Maureen Byrne, director of Dublin High School, talks to students. She's working to dispel the notion that steaming is harmless.
The director of Dublin High School, Maureen Byrne, talks to students. She …
And she has conducted awareness campaigns to dispel the notion among students that the product is a "harmless cigarette".
"For whatever reason, this year it definitely explodes," Byrne said. "It's definitely pervasive and scary and disgusting."
School officials across the Bay Area say they have integrated Vaping into their health education curriculum. In San Francisco, tobacco and e-cigarette prevention education is required in every grade of kindergarten.
In Pittsburg, Vaping has not been a big problem so far, district officials said, but the prevention efforts continue. At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, students recently held a peer presentation on the dangers of smoking and steaming, with a strong visual deterrent: a blackened pork lung infused with tar.
But steam with juuls is expensive and seems to be popular in privileged communities where youths can afford the $ 50 to buy a tackle and starter pack of four nicotine-infused pods – each with about 200 puffs or that Nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. Additional capsules cost about $ 16.
At Bishop O & D Dowd, director James Childs did not directly address the apparent use of Juuling among his students, but said that the officials there watch out for what children do.
"We try to keep up with the latest trends, stay alert to the students, express our expectations and engage with our parents to work together to promote health and well-being within our student body," he said ,
At the Oakland School of the Arts One student said she had never seen a Juul until the beginning of this school year.
"I started seeing this type of hard drive and I did not know what it was," she said. "I started seeing her everywhere afterwards."
She said she had tried them a couple of times, the gadgets being at parties where students from various Bay Area high schools passed them from the party ginger to the partygoers.
"It's so kid friendly, it's so scary for me," said the teen. "They make it attractive to people who are our age."
The founders of Juul Labs, James Monsees and Adam Bowen, say they have developed the product as a solution to a health crisis and offer a tar to flammable cigarette smokers – Free Alternative
"Our mission is to eliminate cigarettes and Helping the more than one billion smokers worldwide become a real alternative, "the company said when asked to comment on this report. "We can not be more emphatic on this point: no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try Juul."
Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
Juul vape pens or e-cigarettes look like flash drives or flashlights and come in hundreds of flavors that appeal to teens.
Juul vape pens or e-cigarettes look like flash drives or Flash …
Faced with the popularity of Juul, it seems to be a spawn of new nicotine users, including the graduation senior from Bishop O & D Dowd, did not heed the warning. He says his habit costs him up to $ 100 a month.
The company saw a 700 percent increase in sales in 2017 and now controls more than half of the $ 1.2 billion e-cigarette / steam market, according to industry reports.
The onslaught of young Juul users has led to a rush of media and cries from parents and policymakers to solve the problem, restrict access to minors, and regulate nicotine levels.
The FDA is not currently regulating the electronic cigarette market and is not planning to do so until 2022, although it is investigating the sale of Juuls after receiving complaints from parents and teachers.
Regardless, Juul Labs has committed to spend $ 30 million on research over the next three years as youth and parenting efforts have been reported by officials. The company also has a "Secret Shopper" program to enforce retail age verification.
Juul devices and pods are also available online through the company's Web site. Buyers must provide name, date of birth, address and the last four digits of their social security number to verify that they can legally buy Juul products.
Bishop O Dowd's student mocked efforts to restrict access, saying that teenagers can easily buy juuls and pods, despite California's age requirement of 21 tobacco
He and his friends, he said, have bought fake California or other state badges online and sent $ 40 or $ 50 cash transfers to Chinese counterfeiters. "It's not hard to bypass age verification online," he added.
"It's very easy to get any kind of vape"
So easy that high school students buy them too] At the Petaluma Junior High School, administrators indicate that they have a slight increase in usage this year but they also monitor online activities, where they see even more evidence of use. To combat the problem, they have restricted access to certain bathrooms during lunches and breaks, said director Renee Semik.
"We know that students do this off campus, at home, on weekends, based on their social media postings," she said. "We also know that many of our students buy them online or from other students who bought them online."
Many of these young students think that juuls or other steam products are safe because they do not contain tar. But they contain toxic ingredients, Dr. Mark Rubinstein, UCSF professor of pediatrics.
"These are not benign fruit-flavored products that you can only play and relax with," he said. "We are worried because when the younger children use nicotine or any drugs, we think that this causes permanent changes in the developing brain."
Researchers are beginning to investigate the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. The chemicals contained therein could be carcinogenic, especially if heated to a level that would be needed to produce steam.
Juul pods contain glycerine, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavors, nicotine and benzoic acid, according to company representative Diacetyl, a potentially harmful chemical used in other steam products for flavoring.
Rubinstein is also worried about excessive use by young people, not just because they come in fun flavors like mango and popcorn – but they do not smell like smoke, so children can use them at home and at school, more often than normal Using cigarettes, he said.
"I think that will increase the risk of nicotine addiction beyond flammable cigarettes," Rubinstein said.
Nicotine, an addictive drug, causes the body to release epinephrine, the combat or flying hormone that could cause the major shock that some describe when steaming or smoking.
On a typical day, graduating senior from Oakland said he could take 40 strokes from a Juul. He has perfected his technique to use in class, inhaling from the slightly hidden device, and then holding the vapor in his lungs long enough for the teacher not to see it.
This is called "zeroing," he said
But he "beats" his Juul much more when he gets bored at home or at parties, he said, where almost everyone vaporizes.
Without it, the headaches and body aches beating, and then, "that's all you think," he said.
While one of the first to use a Juul among his classmates and friends, he said he could not imagine anyone who did not have one or used one now.
Parents, he said, have no idea.
"If your kids say they are not vape," he said, "they vape."
Jill Tucker is a colleague of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @jilltucker
What are e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element and a place to hold a liquid.
E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that normally contains nicotine – the addictive substance in ordinary cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products] E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called e-cigs, e-shisha, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems and electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS.
Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some are similar to pens, USB sticks or other everyday items.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention