NBC10 I-Team: Parents warned about deceptive-looking e-cigarette

For the unsuspecting parent, a Juul looks like it belongs in your kid's backpack. (WJAR)

There’s an e-cigarette your teen knows about -- but you likely don’t.

It's tall. Sleek. And gets its' charge from a computer.

For the unsuspecting parent, a Juul looks like it belongs in your kid's backpack.

“What is this in my hand?” an NBC 10 I-Team reporter asked parents in Warwick and Cranston.

“I don’t know what that is, no,” said one father.

“It has a USB cord,” said a mom.

“Something for school, something electronic,” said another dad.

The NBC 10 I-Team asked teens in Warwick the same question. The answers couldn't have been more different.

“A Juul,” said one student.

“It's a Juul,” added another dismissive teen.

Juuls were designed as a healthier vapor alternative for adults smoking cigarettes. About $50 gets you going with the device and four flavor pods.

“This is it. It's this small. Here's the closed tank. Inside of it is an e-juice, a nicotine oil,” said Heidi Driscoll, who knows all about Juuls and other vape products as a coordinator with the South Kingstown Partnership for Prevention.

Driscol is in schools, talking with kids and their parents about the unknown dangers of vapes. Juuls and other e-cigarettes are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The vapor cloud that's exhaled releases scents like mango, mint, and creme brulee. But, the sweet-smelling oils also pack, what some critics say, is a dangerous punch.

There's a chemical in vapes, propylene glycol, that's also found in antifreeze. And then there's the nicotine factor, too.

“The nicotine in one pack of cigarettes is equivalent to this very small pod,” said Driscoll. “In my opinion, I think there's a reason they're so small -- easy for kids to hide them. Kids put them in their shoes. They put them in their pockets.”

When asked by the NBC I-Team, teens readily admitted Juuls are used in school bathrooms and even the classroom, if the teacher isn’t looking.

“Parents don't have any idea what this is. They can literally see it charging on the side of their child's computer,” said Driscoll.

Take a look at a tweet from a teen named Morgan: “My dad found a Juul in our driveway and gave it to me and said, "here I don't know if you need this for school"…he thinks it's a flash drive.”

A new state law bans e-cigarettes from all Rhode Island schools. While you have to be 21 to buy a Juul, teens are easily getting their hands on them at local smoke shops or online.

Juul Labs provided a statement to NBC 10, which reads in part "...we condemn the use of our product by minors...We are investing in significant resources and personnel to aggressively combat the issue of underage use..."

(Full statement)

JUUL Labs' mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. We condemn the use of our product by minors. We are fully committed to dramatically reducing the incidence of young people using JUUL. We are investing in significant resources and personnel to aggressively combat the issue of underage use.

We strongly oppose and actively discourage the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in the possession of a JUUL. That’s why we raised the age of purchasing JUUL on our website to age 21. To further combat underage use, JUUL Labs is focused on education, enforcement, and partnership with others who are working on this issue, including lawmakers, educators and our business partners.

An individual who has not previously used nicotine products should not start, particularly youth. We are committed to increasing the dialogue around the dangers of nicotine use in adolescents. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and engage with parents and educators and encourage them to email us at youthprevention@juul.com.

Sales of Juuls have exploded, more than 600 percent year over year, according to Nielson tracking data. Juul is the trendy brand now, but other manufacturers are getting in on the idea of making e-cigarettes that don’t look like e-cigarettes.

Prevention experts suggest parents go on the web, find out what is in the products and have that talk with your child. Also, take a closer look that device charging on your teen’s computer.

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