The flash drive to get high: ‘Juuling’ banned in Arlington schools

WASHINGTON — Schools in Arlington, Virginia, have specifically banned a new type of e-cigarette that has gained popularity among local teenagers: the Juul.

“We are seeing the vaping and the ‘Juuling’ across the board in middle and high schools here in Arlington County,” said Jenny Sexton, a substance abuse counselor at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington. “It has become a huge issue. We’ve had experiences with kids doing it right in front of other people — right in class, right in lunch. We’ve seen it.”

The Juul looks an awful lot like a computer flash drive, helping teenagers hide the item among school supplies. It even charges in the USB port of a computer.

“The pod is what detaches from it, and that’s got the liquid. And the liquids are different flavors that are really geared toward teenagers, like mango or crème brûlée,” said Sexton.

Sexton argued against the idea that the Juul is a healthier alternative to smoking nicotine-laced tobacco cigarettes, since one of the pods is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes.

“It goes straight to the brain,” she said. “When someone utilizes a Juul, that’s a direct hit on the brain, so they do get a quick euphoric feeling, which is typically what someone is seeking when they’re utilizing substances.”

Students who get caught vaping or Juuling must attend a second-chance recovery class after the first offense. If they are caught again, they face harsher punishment like suspension.

The second-chance recovery class gives students the opportunity to learn about the potential dangers that come with e-cigarettes and the Juul.

Because these devices aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Sexton said, she tries to get her point across with an easy-to-understand analogy: She asks kids how they’d behave if they knew their principal and teachers weren’t around to regulate them.

“Then the kids are like, ‘We’d all be crazy.’ And I’m like, ‘So when the FDA doesn’t regulate something, it goes crazy,'” Sexton said.

She said the classes seem to stay full.

“What we do see often times is that if kids are vaping, there’s a good chance that there’s other substances that are involved,” Sexton said.

And as educators become suspicious of flash drives, some new vaping tools and Juuls are starting to look like old iPods and other devices, to help students keep discretion.

These companies are also making other drugs and substances easy to hide as well.

“Like alcohol, there is all sorts of different liquids coming out,” Sexton said. “Like cocaine liquid, K2 liquid. … We do expect that this is going to get much worse before it gets better.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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