United States

Teens Vaping Is an ‘Epidemic' Says US Surgeon General

Pods for the popular Juul e-cigarettes contain at least as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes, according to a Stanford University researcher

The U.S. Surgeon General is calling vaping an epidemic among adolescents. More than 3.6 million U.S. teens, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students used e-cigarettes last year. Twenty-one percent of high school seniors vaped in the past month. And according to Stanford University researchers most kids don’t realize the very serious health risks they are facing.

Christian Hernandez knows you probably don't approve of his Juul habit. That's the popular e-cigarette that delivers a hefty dose of nicotine in kid-friendly flavors. However, Christian isn't concerned, even after hearing the warnings.

Hernandez said, "I think about other things I could put in my body, I'd rather have just nicotine and/or Juul than everything else."

And that behavior is why Stanford University developmental psychologist, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD and Professor of Pediatrics, worries teens don't fully understand the true harm of Juul.

"This has about 41, 42 milligrams of nicotine per pod," Halpern-Felsher explained. "So that's equivalent to one to two packs of cigarettes."

According to a new study by Halpern-Felsher, adolescents who use Juul do so more often than those who use other vaping devices.

"We also found that adolescents and young adults who were using Juuls reported being more addicted," Halpern-Felsher said.

Junior felt the effects of Juul quickly.

"I got lightheaded at first," he said. "I just didn't know what to do with myself for a cool minute or so, and then I just kept on taking more hits."

"My parents don't really know what it is," Hernandez said. "They just think it's a flash drive."

Halpern-Felsher isn't convinced that restricting sales would make a difference. She's trying to reach kids before they start with a prevention toolkit.

"We have reached over 170,000 youths throughout the country," Halpern-Felsher said.

An impressive number, but Hernandez warned, "I don't see myself quitting vaping."

While Juul maintained that its products are meant for adults only, Stanford researchers said they found a landmine of ads and social media posts that indicate otherwise.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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