OKLAHOMA CITY - A faint vapor - lofting high school bathrooms, classrooms and hallways. There is a loyal and growing army of young people who boast on social media about being able to sneak a "hit" in school.
"You can do it secretively and nobody knows. I've done it in class," said 19-year-old Maribeth Luecke.
They come in an array of cool colors and resemble a USB drive that's easily concealed. You can understand why JUUL is so trendy with teens.
"It’s just like a head rush. Like, when you stand up and get light-headed," Luecke said.
Like other forms of vaping, the JUUL pods are offered in enticing flavors, such as mint and fruit medley - some argue, it targets children.
"This is very attractive to teenagers in particular because they are made in really yummy flavors," Dr. Melinda Cail told News 4.
But, like cigarettes, the JUUL contains chemicals and nicotine, a highly-addictive substance.
One pod is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes.
"Nicotine can hinder an adolescent's brain development. It can prime an adolescent's brain for other addictions as they get older. Like cocaine for instance," Dr. Cail told News 4.
Federal and state agencies are equally alarmed. The FDA recently launched a crackdown on stores selling to minors.
The ABLE Commission will conduct its own sweeps of habitual offenders.
"We don't like to say target," said Chief Agent Brent Fairchild. "When places sell once, that's where we come in and educate the store owner on what the laws are."
"We want to be part of the solution to end combustible smoking, not part of a problem to attract youth, never smokers, or former smokers to nicotine products. We invest our time and resources in new ways to deliver JUUL exclusively to adult smokers," the JUUL website reads.
Despite the warnings, it's not fazing teens.
"I don't feel like anything serious can happen," said Luecke.
So, it may be up to parents and teachers to help clear the air.
"They need to pay attention to what they have in backpacks and pockets," Dr. Cail said.
JUUL sent News 4 a statement saying:
JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to cigarettes. JUUL is not intended for anyone else. We strongly condemn the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in possession of a JUUL product.
Our goal is to further reduce the number of minors who possess or use tobacco products, including vapor products, and to find ways to keep young people from ever trying these products. We approach this with a combination of education, enforcement, technology and partnership with others who are focused on this issue, including lawmakers, educators, community leaders and our business partners. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and engage with parents and educators and encourage them to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of our initiatives include:
- Limiting the sale of JUUL on our website to ages 21+. JUUL’s ecommerce platform incorporates industry-leading controls to help ensure minors are not able to purchase our products on our website
- Working to engage school districts across the country to deploy educational programs
- Actively working with law enforcement and community leaders across the country
- Deploying a secret shopper program to monitor age verification of retailers