Some schools have taken doors off bathrooms to limit the likelihood of students vaping in them.
As a high school freshman, Kristin Beauparlant began noticing changes in her son, Cade. During hockey games, he began to tire more easily, often having coughing fits. But Kristin says the onset of anxiety and mood swings was what really concerned her.
Over the next three years, the Washington Post reports, the Beauparlants eventually identified the problem: Cade had become reliant on nicotine via Juul, a type of e-cigarette resembling a USB drive.
According to the Post, the rise of e-cigarettes has sparked concern for young users, as pediatricians say they are seeing teens “who behave less like tobacco users and more like patients with [substance use] disorders.”
In addition to behavioral changes, nicotine use can lead to nicotine toxicity, as well as respiratory issues. In fact, Beauparlant was diagnosed with restrictive lung disease due to vaping. Beauparlant’s family is one of the few to try suing e-cigarette companies. Cade’s mother hopes it will lead Juul to fund treatment programs.
“We were thinking about vapes just like we thought about cigarettes,” Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells the Post. “Over time we realized no, no. This is something really different.”
One potential reason for the teen behavior associated with e-cigarettes like Juul is their design which allows for greater intake of nicotine than normal cigarettes.
“With the Juuls, kids are able to get a much higher dose of nicotine—and dose matters,” Levy said. “These kids have behaviors that we often see in patients who have opioid or marijuana addiction, but we didn’t typically see with kids who developed addiction to traditional tobacco cigarettes.”
In response, Juul has claimed their products are designed for adult use and claims that studies have shown nicotine from their devices to be absorbed more slowly than nicotine from cigarettes.
According to Jonathan Winickoff, pediatrician and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital with a specialization in tobacco cessation, products proven to help adults quit tobacco may not have the same effect on teens.
“We have millions of kids now, millions of adolescents who are using mostly Juul—and in some cases other devices—who are unable to quit,” Winickoff tells the Post. “It’s something we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with.”
Schools Take Action
The use of e-cigarettes has become especially problematic in schools. Some schools have even turned to forbidding the use of USB drives since they look like Juuls. Others have taken doors off bathrooms to limit the likelihood of vaping in them.
Once Beauparlant’s son was caught vaping, the athlete was no longer allowed to play hockey. This took away any chance of playing in college as well. But after treatment from Winickoff, Kristin Beauparlant says she began to see her son return.
“We kind of lost four years of Cade to this addiction,” she told the Post. She adds that now that Cade isn’t vaping daily, “He just seems like a different kid. You can’t help but say there’s a correlation.”