A dramatic spike in the use of a particular type of electronic cigarette among middle and high school students has local parents, educators and activists, clamoring for action. Sen. Charles Schumer is putting pressure on federal agencies to move swiftly on the issue.
The craze among kids these day is called Juul. The ads for it claim that one pod of the sweet tasting liquid, contains the amount of nicotine equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. Baldwinsville mom Amy Delia said the dispensers don’t emit vapor, and look like an everyday item.
"The Juul looks like little thumb drives that you plug in your computer,” Delia said.
That makes it hard for anyone to notice it, according to Rome School Superintendent Peter Black.
"It’s happening in school," Black said. "It’s happening in classrooms. It’s happening in buses. It’s probably happening in the back seat of parents' cars, and they might not even be aware of it.”
Schools across central New York have sent letters home to parents about it, and it was in fact, part of the reason Rome school officials recently removed the entrance doors to bathrooms that are a popular Juul-ing location. Officials said 20 percent of middle schoolers and high schoolers in New York state are using some kind of electronic nicotine delivery system.
Part of the attraction is the flavors. Things like bubble gum, sour patch kids, and whipped cream. That’s one area Schumer wants to attack, calling on the FDA to act.
"Ban fun e-Cig flavors that entice the kids,” Schumer said.
Beyond that, Schumer wants federal authorities to move more quickly and crack down on advertising aimed at kids, using laws already in place.
"The rules they have had on regular cigarettes have worked," Schumer said. "We can do the same thing here, they are just a little slow at the switch.”
It is an issue that Delia, who also works with the American Cancer Society, is worried is leading younger and younger children into a world of nicotine addiction.
"I do have some friends who have kids in fifth and sixth and seventh grade, and absolutely they’re talking about it," Delia said. "And if our fifth graders are talking about these products, it’s only a matter of time before my first grader comes home, hearing about this on the bus.”