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

Oct 13, 2023


In the last two decades, the landscape of smoking has transformed dramatically with the advent of electronic cigarettes or “vapes.” Originally designed as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, vaping devices have evolved rapidly. Gone are the days of bulky, conspicuous devices that produced clouds of vapor and drew attention. Today, vaping has become more discreet, thanks to a new breed of devices that blend seamlessly into everyday life, making it easier for teenagers to hide their nicotine use from parents, teachers, and peers.

The Evolution of Vaping Devices

When Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented the first e-cigarette, he aimed to create a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. These early e-cigarettes were bulkier and didn’t offer the discretion that today’s devices do. They often produced noticeable clouds of vapor and required regular maintenance, making them challenging to hide.

In contrast, modern vaping devices are designed to be inconspicuous. They masquerade as everyday household items or personal belongings, making it easier for teenagers to vape secretly. This article explores the different types of vaping devices that resemble everyday items and how parents, educators, and caregivers can identify them.

Vapes Resembling USB Drives

One of the most popular categories of discreet vaping devices is those that resemble USB drives. These devices are designed to mimic the appearance of common computer peripherals, making them easy to conceal. A prime example of this is the JUUL, which bears a striking resemblance to a USB drive at first glance. JUUL and similar devices can be hidden in the palm of a hand, under a sleeve, or inside personal belongings.

According to the Truth Initiative, 7.8% of 15-17-year-olds had used JUUL in the month prior to their study, highlighting the appeal of such devices among young people.

Vape Pens

Vape pens, resembling everyday writing utensils, are another category of discreet vaping devices. Some vape pens even mimic the appearance of a ballpoint pen. These devices can be easily concealed in a student’s pencil bag or backpack and can be held inconspicuously in their hand.

Vape Highlighters

Recently, a new company called HighLight released a type of vape pen that resembles a highlighter. Parents and teachers alike could have a hard time identifying these vape pens that’s disguised as a common school supply item.

Vaping Smartphone Cases

With the ubiquity of smartphones among teenagers, some vaping devices have taken on the guise of phone cases. These cases look like standard phone protectors but come with an attachment that allows users to connect an atomizer for vaping e-liquids. When not in use, they appear as regular phone cases, providing an additional layer of concealment.

Vaping Hoodies and Jackets

Vaping hoodies and sweatshirts have gained popularity as discreet vaping solutions. These garments feature drawstrings with tubing designed for discrete vaping. Users can inhale through a small mouthpiece at the end of the drawstring, all while appearing to use it for its intended purpose.

Smart Watches

Smartwatches are commonplace accessories, and some vaping devices take advantage of this by disguising themselves as regular smartwatches. These devices display the date and time, but with the press of a button, a pod-like vaping device can be removed from the wristband.

Vaping Backpacks

For those seeking even more concealment, special backpacks are available that include tubing and a mouthpiece concealed in the shoulder strap. This allows users to vape discreetly while keeping the device tucked away when not in use.

Identifying Disguised Vaping Devices

Preventing and addressing teen vaping requires vigilance and awareness on the part of parents, educators, and caregivers. To spot discreet vaping devices, consider the following tips:

  1. Educate Yourself: Familiarize yourself with popular vaping brands like JUUL, SMOK, HighLight, and Vaporesso. Stay informed about the latest vaping trends and devices.
  2. Monitor Purchases: Keep an eye on your child’s purchases, packages they receive in the mail, or gifts from friends. Be aware of any unusual or unexplained items.
  3. Consider Cost: Think logically about the cost of an item. While a regular pen may cost a few dollars, a vape pen can range from $10 to $100 or more. Unexplained expenses may raise red flags.
  4. Inspect Items: Examine items that your child frequently puts up to their mouth. Look for hidden buttons, plug-ins, or chargers. Be cautious of small tanks containing yellow to light brown liquid.
  5. Communication: Initiate open and honest conversations with your child about the dangers of vaping and nicotine use. Encourage them to share their experiences and concerns.


As vaping continues to evolve, so too do the methods by which teenagers attempt to hide their nicotine use. Discreet vaping devices that resemble everyday items pose a significant challenge to parents, educators, and caregivers. While these devices are legal, they can be highly addictive and harmful to teenagers. By educating ourselves about these disguised vaping devices and staying vigilant, we can intervene early and prevent young people from falling prey to nicotine addiction. Ultimately, open communication and awareness are crucial tools in addressing this growing concern in our communities.