BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – For years, the fight has been to keep teens away from cigarettes and smoking. While many have listened to that message — a new trend has since surfaced.
According to recent surveys, 27% of teenagers admit they have used a JUUL or have vaped in the last 30 days.
News 3 recently sat down with students in the Lowcountry to find out just how prevalent it is locally.
The group of five estimated that about 75% of their classmates vape, some smoke marijuana and none smoke cigarettes.
“I feel like you’re weird if you don’t,” said Kylie Nelson, a student at May River High School. “For our age and just high school in general, so many people vape and JUUL.”
Vape pens, JUUL and NJOY are now becoming a regular part of teens’ routines, according to health experts. The devices are typically small, easy to hide and quick to hit — even in the classroom.
“Everybody knows what weed smells like; it’s a pretty distinct smell. So if you do that in class it going to be really obvious,” Kylie said. “But JUULs, if it’s mint or something, nobody thinks anything of it.”
The company has argued its flavors, like mint, could help adult smokers ease off of cigarettes. But the teens News 3 spoke to said they see through that.
“JUULs were marketed toward teens with the flavors of Baja Blast, mint, mango,” said Audrey Weidener, a Bluffton High School student.
“If it was meant to be marketed toward the adult population it would just be regular flavored,” she argued. “It wouldn’t have flavors like Sour Patch Kids and Starburst.”
The students said their schools have taken some measures to address the trend, for example, implementing rules about bathroom breaks.
“They’re starting to come down on it and catch people,” Audrey said. Others added that some teachers can easily recognize now when a student is vaping in class.
But it’s not necessarily having a major impact.
“They made an assembly talking to students that JUULing and stuff like that was bad and they sort of took it as a joke. People weren’t taking it seriously,” said Maria Cortes, who also attends Bluffton High.
“When I think of JUULing, I don’t think its a good thing for you. I don’t think it’s going to have positive effects for you and your health,” Kylie said. “But when I think of it, I don’t think you can die from it.”
So far, there have been no vaping-related illnesses reported in Beaufort County.
While more than 50 deaths have been linked to lung injury associated with e-cigarettes or vaping this year, some students said those current numbers might not have an impact on their classmates.
“It’s going to take a mass amount of death and destruction and people writing and using the internet to say ‘Oh this is bad. It did this to me, it did this to my family. Someone in my family died,'” Audrey said. “It’s going to take that sentimental impact for things to change.”