By now you've heard about the dangers of vaping, but there's a new kind of e-cigarette that is all the rage and looks nothing like something you smoke.

By Jonna Gallo
Photo by Getty Images

A couple of years ago we ran an in-depth print feature about the skyrocketing use of electronic cigarettes among tweens and teens. Our aim: To inform parents that middle- and high-schoolers were alighting onto e-cigs as the means to a nicotine payload without the stinky smoke that typically tip off moms and dads. With usage rates under scrutiny since then, a report commissioned by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine found that while e-cigs seem less harmful than old-school butts, they can lead to tobacco addiction in young people and merit continued analysis as a public health debate rages about the need for FDA regulation.

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The Most Widespread Phenomenon You’ve Never Heard Of

And now, the latest in the tobacco wars: Juuling. Billed by the Boston Globe as “the most widespread phenomenon you’ve never heard of,” juuling is the verb coined for using a JUUL, a device developed by a pair of Stanford grad students. According to the startup’s website, the two were looking to “create a true alternative to combustible tobacco products” for smokers and aimed to invent something “simple and satisfying” that's “not your average e-cigarette.” The devices, which look like flash drives and charge on a laptop or other USB port, are inspiring Twitter and Instagram posts galore with the hashtag #doitforjuul.

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Erika Schwarz-Cohen, a family physician at Bellmore Merrick Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine on Long Island, NY and mom of three (ages 28, 13 and 10), is very concerned about juuling. “It’s such a discreet way to vape, and now kids like to bedazzle and decorate their juul pods like their cellphones,” she said. “Teens don't understand the danger. The pods contain nicotine, which can negatively affect teens’ developing brains. Worse still, some parents have no clue about the nicotine and actually help their kids get Juul pods.” (The legal buying age is 21.) As both a doctor and a mom, Schwarz-Cohen says it’s “urgent" to raise awareness among parents about the dangers of juuling. “Teens can get addicted to the nicotine and then end up actually turning to cigarettes to get their fix,” she said. “We’re talking about a potential superhighway to smoking, and worse.”

Dr. Matt Pulewitz, a psychologist in Merrick, NY, who treats teens, offers this advice for having productive conversation with your kids: "Be genuine, be precise and be respectful.” According to Dr. Matt, who has two teenage daughters, teens quickly discount what they hear if they think their intelligence is being questioned. What’s more, many parents exaggerate the effects of risky behavior purely out of worry for their child’s welfare—but teens interpret that as being treated like babies, and quickly dismiss what they hear. Rather than preach, be honest, frank and direct. In other words, instead of issuing proclamations against juuling, ask for their thoughts about it. The challenge for any mom or dad is to have their teenage kid talk as much or more than they do as the parent, says Dr. Matt, but the result is worth the effort.

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