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May 02 2019

A language gap is making it harder for U.S. health officials to measure a teen-vaping epidemic.

For some young people who use the popular vaping device sold by Juul Labs Inc., “juuling” is a verb in its own right. Antitobacco groups and health officials worry that has led to confusion when pollsters go out into the field to quiz teens on their nicotine habits for an annual government survey that plays an important role in shaping tobacco policies. This year for the first time, the poll will specifically mention Juul as an example of an e-cigarette

Caleb Mintz, 17 years old, first tried Juul when he was 15, after he saw his friend holding the sleek device.

“Hearing the word Juul instead of vape makes it sound a lot different,” he said. “It did not look like your typical vape. Giving it a fancy name made it seem like it didn’t have anything harmful in it.”

Mintz didn’t stick with it. He said he saw friends become so addicted that they’d turn to cigarettes for a nicotine fix if their Juul wasn’t in reach. Mintz now considers himself a youth advocate and travels the country with his mother, Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, calling for e-cigarette curbs.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey is usually compiled each March through May. The updated survey language is expected to capture kids who think juuling isn’t the same as using another e-cigarette.

“We suspect that we may see an increase as a result of the more precise language,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Smoking and Health. “Most kids are aware of Juul now that it has become a household name, but it has also become so ingrained in the culture that some of them may not know it’s an e-cigarette.”