Public Health Epidemics: Teenage “Juuling” and Retail Sale of Marijuana

Posted on December 31, 2018 by admin


This next legislative session, I again will be serving on the Public Health Committee.  This committee addresses a wide spectrum of health issues ranging from medical practices and procedures to drug and alcohol addiction.  We will likely be hearing bills on legalizing the retail sale of marijuana on one hand, and curtailing teenage use of tobacco products on the other.  I hope our discussion of the later will bolster the point that introducing another addictive drug into mainstream society will only increase teenage use and create long-term addiction problems for these individuals.

One popular brand of e-cigarettes, JUUL, contains the same amount of nicotine in one pod as a pack of cigarettes. These devices are shaped like a USB drive and are easily concealed, and students are even using them in school during class because, just like with the various forms of marijuana, the drug can be delivered without a flame and smoke.  According to a state public health study, teenage users were initially exposed to vaping from a family member or friend.  More than half of the youth also reported that they used their electronic devices for other substances, such as marijuana, THC or hash oil, or THC wax.

This fall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified youth e-cigarette use an epidemic and requested that the manufacturers take action in order to reduce youth access and use.  Because of this trend, the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association have supported raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, and we will likely see this proposal again this year.

Students who would otherwise be unwilling to inhale a traditional cigarette are more apt to try e-cigarettes, and locally, studies show that students no longer fear marijuana as an addictive drug.  I believe that marijuana use among teens will rapidly become a bigger problem than e-cigarettes if the retail market comes to Connecticut.  Both of these markets target our youth with flavored nicotine, such as fruit and mint, and THC laced gummy bears, sodas, and baked products.  Given that the same devices can use nicotine and THC packets, it is difficult for school administrators to differentiate whether a student is vaping or getting high on marijuana.  Some schools have purchased and utilize test kits for $10 each which determine whether the devices have THC concentrates in them.

Because the delivery system for THC and nicotine has changed, the health impacts are still either unknown or negative.  Studies have shown that marijuana use under the age of 23 impacts brain development and causes a permanent reduction in I.Q. of up to eight points.  As your state representative, I will continue to take in the information, but I have a growing concern of the national trend to allow for the retail sale of marijuana.  As a parent, I regularly talk to my children about these drugs and the impacts on their health.  As the delivery model for these substances has changed with technology, our children are exposed to choices, and I hope they choose right.