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DPHHS Warns Montanans About Popular E-Cigarette

Nearly 23 percent of Montana high school students use electronic cigarette type products, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
Man using an e-cigarette.

Montana’s health department issued a warning Thursday about a popular electronic cigarette they fear is addicting a new generation to nicotine.

The warning comes just five days before Montana voters will decide whether or not to tax e-cigarettes in the state for the first time.

Nicole Aune is the program manager for the state-run tobacco use prevention program. She says, "What prompted this press release is JUULs have been on the market since 2015, but just recently they’re really starting to become present in high schools across the nation and in schools here in Montana."

JUUL has quickly became the most popular e-cigarette on the market, with sales increasing over 600 percent in a single year.

Aune says part of their appeal to teenagers is that JUULs are sleek, look like USB flash drives, come in flavors like mango and mint, and can be charged on a computer.

Despite their increasing popularity, a study published this year in the Tobacco Control journal found nearly two-thirds of JUUL users are unaware the product contains nicotine.

Aune says that's worrisome because, "Nicotine is definitely not safe for youth because it harms the developing brain and it is highly addictive."

She says JUULs are especially concerning because their liquid cartridges use nicotine salts that allow users to inhale higher levels of nicotine than other tobacco products.

In Montana, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.

In a survey conducted by the Montana Office of Public Instruction in April, Montana high school principals reported JUULs being used during school hours both inside and outside their school buildings.

Another survey found nearly a quarter of Montana high school students use e-cigarettes or have tried them.

Ballot Initiative 185 would raise taxes on all tobacco products and tax e-cigarettes like JUULs for the first time. Proceeds from the new taxes would go to programs administered by the state health department.

Maxine is the All Things Considered host and reporter for MTPR. She got her start at MTPR as a Montana News intern. She has also worked at KUNC in Northern Colorado and for Pacific Standard magazine as an editorial fellow covering wildfire and the environment.
Maxine graduated from the University of Montana with a master's degree in natural resource journalism and has a degree in creative writing from Vassar College. When she’s not behind the microphone you can find Maxine skiing, hiking with her not-so-well-behaved dogs, or lost in a book.
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