Vape Products Disguised as Household Items: How Teens Are Hiding Their Nicotine Use

Just under 20 years ago, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented the first e-cigarette as a safer alternative to traditional cigarette smoking.[1] Shortly after, a wave of electronic smoking devices or “vapes” hit the market. Many of these resembled a cigarette while others were nearly the size of the palm of a hand, containing a huge tank to store flavored nicotine vape juices.

These large devices weren’t very discreet, and they produced a thick cloud of vapor when exhaled. They also made a fairly loud noise when heating up the e-liquid. They weren’t very easy to hide because of their size, the sound they made when inhaling the vapors, and the upkeep they required (changing out the coils, cleaning the chambers, adding new juice, etc.).

Today’s vaping devices are much more discreet and easy to conceal. Many even resemble household items or personal belongings that can easily go unnoticed. This allows teenagers to vape in secret and hide their nicotine use from their parents, teachers, and classmates.

Identifying Vaping Products That Look Like Everyday Items

If you are a teacher, parent, or caregiver, you want the best for the children you are responsible for. Even if you take every possible step in preventing teenage tobacco use, teens are curious and known to experiment with smoking and drinking. As a result, it’s important to be aware of the various vape products that are on the market today and disguised as everyday household items.

Vapes Resembling USB Drives

Some of the most popular and widely used vaping devices are disguised as USB drives or have a design that closely resembles them. A commonly known example is the JUUL. These devices look like a USB at first glance and can easily be hidden in the palm of the hand, under a person’s sleeve, or in their personal belongings.

According to the Truth Initiative, 7.8% of 15-17-year-olds used JUUL in the month prior to the study, and devices like these are uniquely popular among young people.[2]

Vape Pens

Similar to vapes resembling USBs, many vaping devices resemble a pen, the popular writing utensil. Some even come to a ball-point shape at one end. Vape pens can easily hide in a student’s pencil bag or backpack. They can even carry it in their hand unnoticed.

Vaping Smartphone Cases

NPR reports that more than 84% of teenagers have their own smartphones and 53% of young people have a smartphone by age 11.[3] Smartphones are a part of everyday life, but they are also expensive and can break fairly easily. As a result, most people use a phone case to protect their valuable device. But, did you know that some smartphone cases are actually vaping devices?

Vaping smartphone cases fit on a smartphone just like any other phone case, but they feature an attachment that allows you to connect an atomizer to it to vape e-liquids. When someone isn’t vaping, they can simply remove the atomizer and fly under the radar with a seemingly normal phone case.

Vaping Hoodies and Jackets

One increasingly common vape product that is disguised as an everyday item is vaping hoodies and sweatshirts. All users have to do is insert a vape pen into the end of the hoodie or jacket’s tubed drawstrings that are specially designed to be used for discrete vaping. People can inhale through a small mouthpiece that is at the end of the drawstring.

Smart Watches

These devices look just like a smartwatch–they even tell you what day and time it is! But, a simple press of the button allows you to remove a pod-like device from the wristband that is actually a vape.

Vaping Backpacks

As if hoodies, jackets, and smartwatches weren’t discreet enough, some special backpacks are also being sold that include tubing and a mouthpiece that comes out of the shoulder strap that can conceal and contain a vaping device. When it isn’t being used, people can simply tuck the vape and the tubing inside the backpack.

How to Identify a Discreet Vaping Device

Teachers, parents, and caregivers can help prevent and stop teen vaping by being able to identify discreet vaping devices. Keep these tips in mind to spot vaping devices that are disguised as everyday items:

  • Educate yourself on what vaping devices look like. Research popular brands like JUUL, SMOK, and Vaporesso
  • Monitor your child’s purchases, packages they receive in the mail, or gifts from friends
  • Think about the cost of the item logically. A regular pen may only cost $2, but a vape pen can cost anywhere from $10-$100 or more.
  • Examine any items that your child is frequently putting up to their mouth
  • Check items for hidden buttons, plug-ins, or chargers
  • Look for small tanks containing yellow to light brown liquid
  • Talk to your child about the dangers of vaping and nicotine use

While these devices are legal, they can be dangerous for teens because they allow teens to use nicotine, get addicted, and do so without being noticed by an adult. However, by knowing what these devices are and how to spot them, you can intervene early on and prevent a young person from getting addicted to nicotine.



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