Health officials are warning parents about a new e-cigarette that's gaining popularity with kids. It's easy to conceal from parents and teachers and sometimes mistaken for a USB drive.
The Juul device is marketed as a way to get adults off of cigarettes, so it offers a stronger nicotine content. With fruity flavored liquids, it's become popular among young people.
Show a Juul e-cigarette to someone who's never seen one and they're easily mistaken.
"Some kind of computer plug-in port," said Thomas Kane of Milwaukee.
But for the younger crowds, they're easily distinguishable.
"I have friends who use them and I've seen them before," said Brianna Love of Milwaukee
Juuls are the best selling e-cigarette in America.
"They went from no one knowing what they are to everyone having one," said Milwaukee Vapor employee Bradley Gessler.
They look like a flash drive and even charge on a computer.
"They definitely are conspicuous," he said.
Gessler says Juuls are their hottest seller.
"We cannot keep them in stock honestly," he said.
The cartridges are sold in all sorts of fruit flavors. Schools across the country are finding they're appealing to underage teens.
"While yes, the candy flavors can be argued that they're for children, I don't really see it that way," Gessler said. "I see it more as being as an alternative to get off the cigarette."
The FDA has banned most flavored cigarettes, but they haven't done the same for flavored vapes. Meaning parents of minors might want to be on the lookout as studies show the high concentration of nicotine might be introducing a new generation to the addictive substance.
"They've heard the horror stories of traditional cigarettes so they go to something like that thinking it's safe, well you're telling me that's double the nicotine, that's not safe at all," Kane said.
At e-cig stores you have to be at least 18 to purchase a Juul vape device.
JUUL Labs sent the following statement to TODAY'S TMJ4 Saturday morning, after this story aired:
“JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers with a better 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.
Nicotine is addictive. 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.”