New nicotine toothpicks add fuel to teen juuling epidemic

FARGO, N.D. (KVLY) Juuling continues to be an epidemic among teens both in the Valley and the country. Last month, local school officials told Valley News Live that three to five vape pens are confiscated from students each week.

"We've got a real problem on our hands, and it's going to get continuously worse. We need to be paying attention and we need to educate as much as we can," Melissa Markegard, Cass County's Tobacco Prevention Coordinator said.

And now there's another way your kids can get nicotine, and they're even smaller and harder to detect. They're called 'nic picks,' nicotine infused toothpicks. They claim to have as much nicotine in one toothpick as you would find in three cigarettes.

"It's just another way for kids and everyone to conceal usage of nicotine," Markegard said.

Markegard says these toothpicks hitting the market is something to be concerned about getting in the wrong hands.

"Nicotine is nicotine no matter how you're getting it into your system. And nicotine to the adolescent brain changes it and it makes it more susceptible to addiction whether it's nicotine or other drugs," Markegard said.

She adds that the toothpicks aren't currently a problem in the Valley, but that doesn't mean parents and schools should turn a blind eye.

Markegard says 'nic picks' only add to the laundry list of alternative nicotine products that kids are getting their hands on and easily hiding.

"You have these products that kids can easily conceal and you do not even know what you're looking at.. You don't even know what you're looking for! Because it changes so rapidly," she said.

Many nicotine products popular today are disguised to look like flash drives, USB ports and beauty products, which cause headaches for parents and schools trying to tackle the problem..

"Be watching your kids backpacks and their pockets; all of these items you can fit right in your pocket," Markegard said.

Our reporter went online and ordered a pack of the picks today. She says at first, she typed in that she was underage and the site wouldn't allow her to buy the toothpicks. However, she was surprised to find out that all she had to do was bump up her birth year and she was able to finish her purchase—Meaning anyone could lie and get these addictive toothpicks delivered to their door.

This also has Markegard reminding parents to check any packages your child orders because nicotine comes in all shapes and sizes now.

"We need to question everything that we think might be an e-cigarette because it more than likely is," Markegard urged.