Watertown High School student Shariel Joseph spoke during Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s announcement of the investigation into vaping and e-cigarette companies on Tuesday.
Joseph, who will be senior in the fall, has been involved in anti-tobacco efforts as a Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leader. At the announcement she represented The 84 Movement, a group of youth from Massachusetts fighting against tobacco.
During her address, Joseph talked about how “JUULing” (named after the leading vaping equipment company JUUL) became a big thing at Watertown High School, and she saw students using them in school bathrooms, the hallways and even classrooms.
“From the beginning of my junior year to the end there was a huge increase of people JUUL-ing,” Joseph said. “Before there were a few people who JUUL-ed but now it seems like everyone is JUUL-ing, especially since it is summer, now. I see JUULs all over social media among my peers and classmates.”
She said one of the reasons that JUUL and other vaping devices are attractive to teens is because they use sweet flavorings such as strawberry, watermelon or vanilla.
“When vapes first came out I remember seeing signs about all the flavors and how its better for you than cigarettes,” Joseph said. “It made people like me and my friends — people who would never smoke a regular cigarette — now want to try e-cigarettes.”
Joseph called for vape companies to stop using flavors, and to only sell their products in adult-only establishments.
“That really is their intended audience,” Joseph said. “Even though I am not sure it really is.”
While vaping and e-cigarettes are meant only for people age 18 or older, Joseph said that students have been getting their vaping equipment online.
“I know you can get a vape or JUUL online with the click of a button without an adult,” Jospeh said.
Healey said one focus of the investigation is to make sure that JUULs and other vaping devices are not being sold to minors. She also likened the marketing campaigns by vaping companies to those for cigarette in the past which used cartoon characters and mascots.
JUUL responded in a statement that the company makes many efforts to prevent minors from purchasing its products, including online ID match and age verification technology, and that they monitor the internet and “process thousands of enforcement actions per month.”
The company added that JUUL is marketed strictly to adults. The company’s Marketing & Social Media Code states it does not use cartoon characters or other designs aimed at minors.
See the entire announcement of the investigation into the vaping industry, including Joseph’s remarks, in this Facebook video.