Your Kid’s Addiction to His or Her “USB drive”

Well, we’re one month into the school year and the kids are busy memorizing hundreds of Spanish words, trying to figure out high school geometry at 10pm, and juggling sports/after school activities. Maybe your kid is working on a project or writing an English paper and using his USB drive to save his work. You know, the USB drives we all use to save data from our computers.

USB drive? Nope, it’s an e-cigarette. (Getty images)

Wait a minute. What is that? Where did my kid get that USB drive? Look closer at that device and maybe it’s not what you think. It might actually be something very addictive, dangerous, and harmful to their health. It might actually be an e-cigarette. Electronic cigarettes have become the newest, coolest, and most popular way for children, teens, and young adults to use tobacco. A 2016 CDC report showed a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high schoolers from 2011 to 2015. Other studies have shown a similar increase in e-cigarette use in middle schoolers. Originally marketed as a “smoking alternative,” e-cigarettes or vaping devices were supposed to be marketed to adults and are illegal to purchase if under the age of 18. Our kids, however, are still getting their hands on e-cigarettes. Juul is the leading seller of e-cigarettes in the US. Their sleek vaping device looks like a USB drive, and pods are used to deliver the nicotine in tasty flavors like mango, cool mint, and crème brulee. Unfortunately, these tasty and sweet-smelling vapors are the reason teens prefer “Juuling” to standard cigarettes and our kids are getting hooked.

JUUL pods containing nicotine

Teens know that smoking cigarettes is bad for their health. But they’re fooling themselves (and/or fooling adults around them) when they say vaping is fine because “it’s just water vapor.” Many kids say, “It’s just flavoring that I’m inhaling.” Neither of those statements are true. I’m not sure the kids actually believe what they’re saying either. In actuality, the pods contain e-liquid which is made up of nicotine and other chemicals (glycerol, propylene glycol, benzoic acid, and flavorants) that can be toxic or cancer-causing when vaporized. Nicotine, as we all know, is highly addictive and has deleterious effects on the developing child brain. Each JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Teens are also using vaping devices to smoke marijuana.

Vaping devices (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Children and teenagers aren’t just vaping at parties. Because the vaping devices often fit in the palm of their hand, kids are escaping detection and vaping in class, school bathrooms, and hallways as they walk by teachers and administrators.  So, if you see your kid or their friends sucking on a USB drive, take a second look. They’re possibly “Juuling” or vaping. Also, it’s not just “the bad kids” that are vaping. Trust me. Kids from all social circles are trying it. The jocks, the popular girls, the loners, the nerds, all of them. Parents I know: some of your kids are doing it thinking it’s not harming them. Even if your kids say they haven’t tried it and their friends haven’t either, talk to them anyway. Talk to your children about the serious effects of tobacco use. Give them the facts about vaping and dispel the myths. Let them know how it can damage their developing brain, cause serious lung disease, and potentially cause cancer. Check out this informative website here at the CDC for more tips on how to help your child.

Thank you, and as always, empower your kids and stay safe!

Soo Battle, M.D., F.A.A.P.


Dr. Soo Battle

Dr. Soo Battle is a board-certified, licensed pediatrician who works at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims & Children in Waco, Texas. She is the Children's Advocacy Center Medical Advisor and has been a trained child sexual abuse examiner since 2015.