FOX13 Investigates: A danger to kids in plain sight

It's a frightening new trend.

A new form of e-cigarette marketed to teens and pre-teens.

FOX13 talked to teens who tell us kids are experimenting with e-cigs like "Juuls" and "Phix"  starting in middle school.

Dr. Leslie Robinson is Director of the Clinical Health Psychology track in the University of Memphis Psychology department. She said, "17% of high schoolers are already vaping before they get out of high school."

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UofM student Allie Dickard said, "It's just the fad that everyone else is doing's cool to sit there and hit it."

FOX13 talked to teenagers and parents. They said both middle and high school students are using the new smaller e-cigs at school and on the bus.  They look like flash drives and are easy to hide. One student told us you can "put them up your sleeve" and the vapor can be blown into your sleeve.

They seem to be marketed to young people with flavors like mango and strawberry , fruit medley and creme brulee...

But the bitter truth is...

Each pod can contain as much nicotine as nearly *3 packs* of cigarettes!

We compiled that figure using numbers from the e-cigarette review online and med-health-dot-net and other online sources that review these devices.

Dr. Robinson said, "This is a drug that we understand is more addictive than heroin."

She has studied tobacco use and addiction in teens since 1993. Robinson says teens become addicted faster because their brains are still developing, "People can get addicted in a matter of days. We're not talking months here."

Even worse? Dr. Robinson refers to 15 clinical trials that shows a teen's chance of quitting is almost impossible- " Their odds of quitting are miniscule." She said it's, "terrifying to me as a mother."

So why are kids as young as 11 or 12 and older using them?

Teens told us "there's nothing wrong it " and they think it's "safe."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Alex Dill and Allie Dickan are 20-year-old college students. They are able to legally buy and use e-cigs and talked candidly about why. When asked what it feels like to inhale, Dickan says, "I will get a buzz but it's not like an extreme buzz... kinda calm and head kind of tingly."

Dill said she started "juuling" to quit smoking...

"You might feel the strength of it but you don't taste it cuz they cover it with different flavors..."

Amy Howell is a parent and author of the book "Be the parent, not the pal." She found out about e-cigs when her daughter told her  many friends are trying it out.

Her advice? "The easy way to parent is to tell the kids 'don't do it because I said so' ...that's not realistic. you have to tell them why, explain the logic"

Dr. Robinson says the fact is... these e-cigs can be even more dangerous than cigarettes and contain the same carcinogens and even more nicotine.

Need more stats to back you up? Last week the FDA announced it is doing an "undercover nationwide blitz" of stores selling these devices to minors.

This, because so many kids are using these high-nicotine devices. The agency is also demanding the company that makes Juuls to hand over documents showing exactly what is in the e-cigs and how they market to young people.

E-cigarettes have only been around about eight years here so most schools have not adopted policies specific to e-cigarettes. FOX13 talked to several schools and none of them admitted to having found any major issues with students "juuling" or vaping yet.

Shelby County Schools telling us use of e-cigarettes would fall under the tobacco use policy. You may read it here.