UTAH (ABC4) The Wall Street Journal reports the FDA may ban the sale of e-cigarettes from JUUL Labs, Inc. in the United States. There are dozens of other brands that produce e-cigarettes in the U.S. and teens are seven times more likely to vape than their adult counterparts. Utah health officials worry about the health outcomes for the teens who are vaping.   

Electronic cigarettes, or vaporizers, are still fairly new. They were introduced in the United States in the early 2000s. Since that time, they seem to have taken a hold on the public’s attention.  

“A lot of them contain flavors and that’s what may be appealing or more attractive to youth,” Mariela Thompson told ABC4. Thompson is a health educator with the Bear River Health Department. She works to educate the public about the dangers of vaping, especially for teenagers.   

ABC4 reached out to half a dozen smoke shops in northern Utah. Almost all explained that they stopped carrying JUUL a long time ago. On the JUUL website, one can enter their zip code and then see a map with all the stores nearby that carry the company’s product.  

At first glance, it appears gas stations are the primary sellers in northern Utah.  

One smoke shop in Weber County still sells JUUL products. However, the woman working at the shop told ABC4 that the product isn’t very popular. The company removed its flavored cartridges in 2019. She said its popularity has continued to decline at the smoke shop since. She hadn’t heard about the possibility of the FDA ban but she said she doesn’t think it will affect sales.  

Around the same time, in order to curb nicotine use among youth, the U.S. increased the selling age for tobacco products from 18 years to 21 years.

Health departments across the state regularly collect confiscated e-cigarettes (and the products that are sold with them) from school districts. The health departments then dispose of those products in a proper manner. 

The BRHD recently took in hundreds of electronic cigarettes, and related products, collected from schools in three different counties. Almost all of the products had some sort of appealing flavor. “It’s always important to note that there’s nicotine in those products,” stated Thompson. 

Health care professionals worry about the effects nicotine (and synthetic nicotine) has on people who vape. Even more so, they worry about how it affects the developing brain.  

“It can affect the way your brain develops, your intention span in school, mood swings,” explained Thompson.  

“Teenagers already have a problem with impulse control so if you then add on a drug which negatively affects their impulse control, it can make things even worse at that age,” Dr. Richard Pomerantz told ABC4. He is the chief medical officer for Ogden Regional Medical Center. He said that in recent years, they have seen an increase in vaping-related illnesses as more people turned to e-cigarettes for what they may have thought was a healthier alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.  

Pomerantz said nicotine is highly addictive and gets people hooked on vaping. He said in today’s society, “We don’t need people getting addicted to any more substances.” And while nicotine does affect the developing brain, he said it’s not the only concern when it comes to vaping. “There are other, what they call volatile chemicals, that are released,” he explained. “Formaldehyde and other things, and we don’t even know really the long-term effects. Vaping hasn’t been around that long.”  

According to the Utah Department of Health, 80 percent of youth who use tobacco started with flavored products. It reports that 15.1 percent of teens aged 16 to 17 vape. This is the highest percentage in any age group; it’s followed by adults aged 18 to 24 with 14.6 percent.  

Health experts encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of vaping.