Health officials send urgent message on dangers of Juul

State health officials are sending an urgent message about the dangers of Juul, a type of e-cigarette, as more Montana kids use them than the national average.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services says nearly a quarter of Montana high school students use e-cigarettes, and almost half have tried them.

"The majority of their popularity comes from the fact that they're very discreet, they're very sleek. Marketing tactics really are targeted towards youth, who are their primary users," said Kaila Warren, senior community health specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department.

A 2018 study published in the Tobacco Control journal found that most Juul users -- 63 percent -- are unaware that the product contains nicotine. And they pack a punch. The DPHHS director says one Juul pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 cigarette puffs.

They’ve been on the market since 2005, but in just three years their popularity has soared, making them the most common e-cigarette brand in the U.S.

"But what's really scary is 22 to 23 percent of Montana high school students are Juuling -- are using e-cigarettes -- and that's almost double the national average," said Warren.

Warren has a few ideas on why the numbers are so high here. She says it’s because e-cigarettes weren’t regulated for a long time. Before 2016, kids could get their hands on e-cigarettes at a very young age.

Missoula County took restrictions a step further in March and banned e-cigarettes from indoor public places.

"That kind of reduces that exposure and basically being able to see people. A lot of times with smoking it's a behavior thing. If you see someone doing it you think it's OK, or naturally you want to try it, but the more we can reduce those exposure rates, the better," said Warren.

The DPHHS recommends parents learn the different types of e-cigarettes and talk to their kids about the risks. You can learn more here.

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