Israeli Teenagers Smoking More Electronic and Hand-rolled Cigarettes, Study Says

Within three months of the JUULe-cigarette entering the Israeli market, the rate of kids aged 13 to 18 who reported trying it shot up from 0.4 percent to 5.3 percent

An unidentified teenager smoking an electronic cigarette, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18, 2018.
Steven Senne/AP

A survey conducted in recent months by the Smoke Free Israel Initiative shows a significant rise in the proportion of teenagers experimenting with the electronic cigarette JUUL and with rolled cigarettes.

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JUUL entered the Israeli market in May and by the end of the summer sales had taken off. Within three months there was a sharp rise in the rate of kids aged 13 to 18 who reported trying JUUL, from 0.4 percent in August to 5.3 percent in November. There was also a 50 percent jump in the proportion of teenagers trying rolled cigarettes, from 10.9 percent to 15.5 percent. During this period there was an increase in teens’ use of all smoking products except for pipes and cigars.

The percentage of teenagers who reported trying JUUL is still relatively low, but these were only the first months of the product’s introduction. In the United States, where JUUL has been marketed for three years, 20.8 percent of teenagers are using it, including an increase of 78 percent in high schoolers’ use in only one year, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The use of JUUL and other electronic cigarettes by teenagers has already been termed “an epidemic” in the United States.

Shira Kislev, the director of Smoke Free Israel, said, “If the rate of increase of 5 percent in three months doesn’t change, within a year 20 percent of teenagers will have had experience with it, and within three years, 60 percent.”

“In my class and my grade level more than half the pupils smoke JUUL and also cigarettes,” said a 12th grader at the Alliance School in Ramat Aviv. “Many of us were smoking by age 15, and JUUL is something new – it started at the beginning of the [school] year and by after Sukkot vacation there was a strong wave [of use] in our school.

“Recently we went to Poland and a lot were smoking JUUL in the bus, in the hotel, at the airport,” she continued. “At any point of weariness or difficulty, they ran straight for the JUUL. That’s because it’s not like a cigarette and you can use it in public places, so they would pass it around without the teacher noticing.”

Two 10th-grade girls from Tel Aviv said that many boys and girls in their class smoke cigarettes and JUUL. “You see JUUL in school, outside school and on Instagram stories, for example. There was even a boy in our class who smoked JUUL during a lesson when the teacher wasn’t looking.”

The JUUL company said, “Our mission is to offer a satisfactory and effective alternative to cigarettes to adult smokers throughout the world, without tobacco and without combustion, which dramatically reduces the damage from smoking. Since activity began in Israel we’ve taken a series of steps to block young people’s access to our products. Young people and those who do not consume nicotine have no need to try our product.”

The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday will be holding its last hearing on the bill to restrict the advertising and marketing of tobacco products. The bill includes a ban on advertising smoking products in any medium except for the print press; a requirement to conceal smoking products at sales outlets; uniform cigarette packaging without logos, and the application of all the current restrictions on regular cigarettes to electronic cigarettes.