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Teens are "JUULING" and parents don't know it

Are your kids JUULing at school?

Ever heard of a JUUL? If not, you're not alone.

They are flying below the radar and many parents have never heard of them. Doctors say teenagers are becoming addicted to nicotine through a vaping device called a JUUL and it's an epidemic.

Parents and teachers are fooled because it looks just like a flash drive. The scary part is just one JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Jordan Fox is a junior at Gulf Breeze High School. She said kids are using them at school.

"Eighty percent of my friends have one," she said.

It's all grades, all social circles.

"Freshman, even sophomores, the whole school. Even straight-A students will just have one," said Fox.

It's not just Gulf Breeze, Fox said students in every high school are using them. The gadget fools teachers and students can even charge them on their school-issued laptops.

Fox said, "Kids will go in the bathroom and do it. They always have it with them in their pocket, like their phone."

Fox admitted she tried it and the flavors are enticing for teenagers.

"It has different flavors like mint, crème brûlée, fruit," she said.

She didn't like how it made her feel. However, she said many of her friends like it because it reduces their anxiety and they got addicted fast.

"They'll be grumpy without it, they'll freak out. They want it all the time, they won't give it away, won't let anyone use it."

Her parents stepped in when they found a pod in her car and had no idea what it was.

Her stepdad, Dr. Ben Renfroe, asked, "What the heck is a JUUL?"

Dr. Renfroe started doing research and quickly realized they are very dangerous for our children.

"More shocked that the school isn't aware, teachers aren't aware, my staff isn't aware. It's sliding under the radar and really marketed to this age group," said Dr. Renfroe.

Dr. Renfroe is a pediatric neurologist and believes this device will make teenagers addicted far quicker than any substance because of the high nicotine concentration.

"Within a week or two of using it, they are addicted. Is that an epidemic? Absolutely!" he said.

It's illegal for minors to buy e-cigarette products. The devices, however, are incredibly easy to find. They are sold at gas stations across our area.

"People will freak out if they don't have pods and they have to find someone who is 18 to get it for them," Fox said.

How do you tell a JUUL from an actual flash drive? It's tough because e-cig companies are constantly changing their products and coming up with discrete devices.

WEAR alerted the Santa Rosa County School District about the issue. In response, they said they would be sending out a notice to all middle and high schools in the district about JUULs.

For parents, the best thing you can do is talk to your children and make sure that they know just a few puffs can get them addicted quickly.

JUUL spokeswoman Caroline Kemp stressed to Channel 3 News that JUULS are not for kids under 18.

"Youth prevention is of the highest corporate priority at JUUL Labs and we are more than happy to provide you with more information on JUUL’s stance and the initiatives they are undertaking" Kemp said.

She released a full statement below.

STATMENT

“JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible 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 and our business partners.
An individual who has not previously used nicotine products should not start, particularly youth. Recent science raises serious concerns about the adverse effect of nicotine on adolescent neurodevelopment.
We encourage parents to talk with their children about the dangers of nicotine. As a company we also continuously seek ways to contribute to this dialogue and knowledge base.

You can read the company's responses to questions our sister-station WJLA asked about the design, content and targeting of their product by clicking here.

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