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Introduced in 2015, Juul e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity among youth across the United States, leading to what public health officials have called a youth e-cigarette “epidemic.” From 2017 to 2019, e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 135 percent. In 2019, more than 5.3 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes – an alarming increase of nearly 3.2 million students in two years.

Several factors have contributed to Juul’s rising popularity with teens:

  • Juul e-cigarettes are sleek, high tech and easy to hide. They look like USB flash drives and can be charged in the USB port of a computer. They don’t look anything like a traditional tobacco product. A Juul is also small enough to fit in a closed hand.
  • Juul comes in flavors that appeal to youth, including mango, fruit, creme, mint, menthol and cucumber. Research shows that flavors play a key role in youth use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Juul appears to deliver nicotine more effectively and at higher doses than other e-cigarettes, increasing users’ risk of addiction. The manufacturer has claimed that each Juul “pod” (cartridge of nicotine liquid) contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. However, research has found that many young Juul users don’t know the product always contains nicotine, and many teens call use of the product “juuling,” indicating they may not realize it is an e-cigarette or tobacco product.

Juul sales have grown dramatically and now make up more than 70 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market.

Juul and other e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of kids and threaten the decades-long progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use:

  • A 2016 Surgeon General’s report concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, causes addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.
  • A growing number of studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers, and many are low-risk youth who would not have otherwise smoked cigarettes. A January 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded, “There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults.”

The youth e-cigarette epidemic is a public health emergency that demands the strongest possible action by the Food and Drug Administration and policy makers are all levels. The FDA has taken some steps to address this crisis, including announcing plans to restrict where certain flavored e-cigarettes are sold. But these plans don’t go far enough. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health groups have called on the FDA to do more, starting with a ban on the flavored products that have made e-cigarettes so popular with kids.

Last updated Dec. 5, 2019