The JUUL, an e-cigarette that looks like a USB flash drive, has been raising concern among parents, schools and community leaders across the nation.

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of high school students in the United States who reported using e-cigarettes (including JUUL) increased by 78 percent in just one year (2017-18).

This increase was so drastic that the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General have released statements declaring teen e-cigarette use, also known as vaping, an “epidemic,” singling out JUUL Labs, the creator of JUUL.

In the FDA’s statement, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction must end.”

What is a JUUL and why should we be concerned about it?

In just two years, JUULs have become increasingly popular among teens for several reasons, including that they are easy to conceal and emit very little odor.

The JUUL experienced a 600-percent surge in sales between 2016 and 2017, and now owns more than 70 percent of the e-cigarette market share.

One JUUL “pod” (the nicotine cartridge inserted into the device) delivers as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes in about 200 puffs.

The majority of JUUL users aged 15 to 24 are unaware that all JUULs contain nicotine. Studies have shown that nicotine has negative impacts on adolescent brain development, including lifelong addiction and effects on working memory and attention.

The tobacco industry, including JUUL Labs, is using the same tactics as it did decades ago to draw young people into smoking. This includes offering flavors like cool cucumber, crème brulee and mango, as well as using youth-friendly social marketing tactics.

What is being done to protect our kids?

In September, the Food and Drug Administration began to crack down on e-cigarette companies and retailers for marketing and selling to underage youth.

These actions included establishing limitations on the sale of certain flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations, and requiring e-cigarette companies like JUUL to submit plans for how they would eliminate youth access to their products.

In response, JUUL Labs stopped selling their fruit- and dessert-flavored pods at brick-and-mortar stores. They also removed their Facebook and Instagram accounts in an effort to limit exposure to underage consumers.

In Colorado, former Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order in November that directs local agencies to take action to limit the use of tobacco products by young people. He also announced the release of The Colorado Tobacco Prevention Blueprint, which provides policy recommendations to reduce the burden that tobacco places on the state.

Locally, El Paso County Public Health’s Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership (TEPP) and its community partners are working to decrease youth tobacco use by:

• Partnering with local schools to educate teachers, staff and students about tobacco, and strengthen tobacco-free schools policy

• Collaborating with local governments and law enforcement in El Paso County to reduce illegal tobacco sales to minors

• Creating smoke-free public spaces across El Paso County

Learn more about teen vaping, and how to talk to the teen in your life about it at www.tobaccofreeco.org/know-the-facts.