A month after a partial ban of e-cigarette flavors, the Juuling problem in Middle Tennessee schools seems to be getting worse.

In November, the FDA banned most retail locations from selling e-cigarettes in all flavors except for tobacco, menthol. And mint. Other flavors are available on line and in age-restricted locations, like tobacco and vape shops.

News4 asked Lt. Scott Moore what his Wilson County student resource officers are seeing at their schools; every single one said they’ve seen a rise in Juuling in the last month. One called it explosive.

“I wouldn't know the flavors were banned at this point with the amount we are taking,” West Wilson Middle School Principal Kevin Dawson said.

“The prevalence is alarming.”

According to Dawson, the flavors are appealing, but it’s certainly not the only appeal. “To have something that's edgy and easy to get away with is very appealing to [students],” he explained.

So easy in fact Dawson trains his teachers not only how to spot them, but how to smell them. “Is it a lotion or a spray from a student, or is there somebody with a Juul in their pocket?”

“What seems to be causing damage to people's lungs is the flavors.” said Pediatric Pulmonary Specialist Dr. John Robertson. According to Robertson, a chemical called diacetyl is used in many e-cigarette flavors. That chemical is the popular cause of bronchiolitis obliterans or ‘popcorn lung.’

The doctor said the flavor ban is a step in the right direction, but e-cigarettes are still harmful. “They're not safer than cigarettes. They hurt you in a different way.”

The punishment for being caught with a Juul in Wilson County Schools is three day in-school suspension, but that’s at each school’s discretion. Some principals are cracking down harder than that.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Rebecca Cardenas is a Murrow-award winning journalist who joined News4 as a reporter in September 2017. She currently covers the court systems in Middle Tennessee.

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