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Mar 05 2018

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) It's what the kids call "JUULing" that's making public officials concerned about the unknown health impacts.

Cigarette usage is dropping off. However, the popularity of e-cigs is exploding.

"They use a lot of slang terms," said Melissa Markegard. "They say they're juuling, or they are taking a hit, or a rip."

Markegard is on the front lines of tobacco prevention. Now, her main concern technically isn't tobacco at all. She works for Fargo Cass Public Health and connects with schools to try and educate about the dangers of new nicotine products. She's finding she's learning a lot too.

"And I say, what do you do when your teacher catches you?" Markegard recalls asking a student. "She said, I tell her it's a USB."

That's because new e-cigs literally plug into USB ports.

Back in 2011, less than 2 percent of high schoolers were using e-cigs. Last year, nearly one in five kids were vaping, about 19 percent, according to the Tobacco Surveillance Data from the North Dakota department of health.

Even though officials said the full health effects of e-cigs are still unknown, it's a fact that nicotine has harmful effects on developing brains.

"School resource officers are already aware of it, but we want that to trickle down to principals and classroom teachers," Markegard said.

Because kids are getting good at hiding these devices in plain sight.

"No. That is not a USB. That is an e-cigarette. Confiscate it," Markegard said.

The Youth Risk Behavior Study shows where the most e-cigs are being used by North Dakota kids.

Across all of North Dakota around 20 percent of high schoolers have used e-cigs in the past 30 days.

In the Fargo Jamestown area that number drops to around 17 percent.

The Grand Forks area has the highest usage numbers in the state. More than 25 percent of high schoolers are using e-cigs.