Live 5 Investigates: Hidden High

Live 5 Investigates: Hidden High

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A popular new electronic cigarette product is getting a lot of buzz as some students say they are using it to get a buzz.

Juul is a vaping product that looks like a slim rectangular flash drive.

Users snap flavored pods into the end.

Social media videos show young people offering up tips for hiding Juuls in their bookbags, sharpie pens, stuffed animals and pencil cases.

Felicia Veasey works with the SC Department of Environmental Control and says 11% of HS students and 4% of middle school students admit to using e-cigarettes, about 2 million youth nationwide.

She says Juuls are especially popular with younger people because the vapor has no smell and disappears quickly.

A puff or two is generally enough for a strong nicotine buzz.

"One juul has about the same nicotine that a pack of cigarettes, so you can get about 200 puffs," Veasey explained.

Dr. Kevin Gray with MUSC's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences says an e-cigarette may be a safer alternative for adults who smoke tobacco every day, but not for kids and teens who aren't smoking in the first place.

"Teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to smoking tobacco than those who don't use e-cigarettes. So a real concern here is that it may be bridging people," Gray said.

Gray said the addictive nature of nicotine is dangerous for the adolescent brain which is developing into the mid-20s.

"Even the manufacturers of e-cigarettes say we don't want our products used by adolescents," he said."The irony is they are designed in ways that are very appealing to teenagers."

Flavors include mint, crème brulee, fruit medley, Virginia tobacco and mango.

The full starter kit including four flavors was $50 at a Charleston vape shop.

Juul's website has an entire section about preventing underage use, which they say remains a "persistent problem…" which they are "committed to combating."

Juuls don't contain tobacco but you must be 18 to buy one in a store and 21 to buy it from the website.

FDA tobacco inspections in our area show there were 494 compliance checks over the last year in Charleston alone.

45 stores and gas stations were issued civil penalties and fines for selling to underage minors. 60 received warning letters.

One West Ashley vape shop told us they don't sell Juul because of the high nicotine content.

Another store told us they were having so many 18-year-olds buying them day after day, they started tracking the sales and refusing sales to some people if they suspect the product was being re-sold to underage kids.

A Wando High School student was arrested in January after an incident involving another student "hitting a jule" in a school bathroom, according to a police report.

Charleston County Schools' spokesperson said use of possession of tobacco or e-cigarettes on a school campus is a Level 2 offense, punishable up to referral for alternative school placement.

Distribution of tobacco or e-cigarettes on a school campus is a Level 3 offense, punishable up to referral for expulsion.

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