This e-cigarette JUUL has become a fast growing popular trend. Reported by Vox in 2017, JUULS grew the e-cigarette market by 40 percent to 1.16 billion, and as of March 2018, JUULS made up more than half the e-cigarette sales. Anyone under 21 years old cannot legally purchase a JUUL, however, teenagers are still using it.
“I walk around the hallway and see everyone with a JUUL,” senior Dylan Soper said. “Just sitting in class, maybe one fourth, two fourths of the class is just hitting their JUUL.”
Currently, RBHS is treating JUULing and vaping like a traditional tobacco offense, Dr. Baker said. He also stated students will be issued a Saturday detention and the product will be confiscated.
“Yes, I’d say it’s become a major problem, but I believe it’s much more than just at Rock Bridge High School,” assistant principal Dr. Tim Baker said. “We’ve noticed a large increase in students vaping both inside and outside of the building.”
Despite the potential consequence, high school students don’t view JUULing as a big deal. One thing that helps teenagers feel safe using JUULs is they are supposed to be carcinogen free, unlike cigarettes. The National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study that showed nicotine can lower the effectiveness of cancer treatment and speed up cell growth, including lung, colon and breast tumor cells. They also stated nicotine may impair brain development in adolescents, which further down the road can lead to poor impulse control and attention deficit disorder.
“I know they’re still not good for you. I usually do it after work or, like, during work to step outside and take it like my smoke break but also at the same time it just looks cool and everyone had one. They are all over YouTube, any social media influencer has one in a video or posted online, and now all these other companies are making off brand JUULS so they’ve kind of been blowing up.”
Furthermore, health educator at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, Sarah Varvaro states that some long term effects include increased risk of mood disorder and permanently lowered impulse control. She says it is because nicotine is able to change the way synapses are formed which harms the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
“Even the e-cigarettes that claim to be ‘nicotine-free’ oftentimes contain trace amounts of nicotine in them. E-cigarettes, including Juuls, also affect the lungs, as the e-cigarette fluids often contain harmful substances including ultrafine particles that can be absorbed into the lungs,” Varvaro said. “Other harmful substances found in e-cigarette fluids include various heavy metals, such as lead, tin, and nickel, cancer-causing chemicals, and flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical that is linked to a serious lung disease.”
Furthermore, an article from Harvard Medical School showed regular exposure to nicotine can create insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes as well as increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks. While evidence points to nicotine being harmful, it is still not recognized to be by young adults.
The Truth Initiative, a non-profit anti-smoking organization, reported 63 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds were unaware of the harmful nicotine in the device. In a statement on new enforcement actions and a Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to stop youth use of and access to, JUUL and other e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb said the “nicotine in these products can rewire an adolescent’s brain, leading to years of addiction.”
Sophomore Zach Gaines describes JUULs as small and easy to hide “little nicotine machines that you vape.” He first found out about the e-cigarette through memes that joked about their high addictiveness.
“[A JUUL] has higher levels of nicotine than regular vaporizers when you smoke it you get a little nicotine high that makes you smiley and dizzy,” Gaines said. “I first tried one at a friend’s party because I hoped nothing bad would happen, nothing bad did happen, but some people can get addicted from that.”
Varvaro explains that the earlier an individual is exposed to nicotine, the more difficult it is for them to quit. She encourages individuals who are addicted to get help as soon as possible as addiction is a serious disease.
“Especially in teens and young adults, nicotine is rewiring their brains and affecting how their brains function, leading to a strong nicotine addiction,” Varvaro said. “Students who are addicted to nicotine and using their Juul should seek help from a physician to help them quit.”
Unconcerned about the possible dangers of JUULs, Soper states that one JUUL pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, regarding nicotine levels, but believes they are healthier due to the lower amount of chemicals. Soper also said he knows he isn’t addicted and if desired, he could quit right now.
“I know they’re still not good for you. I usually do it after work or, like, during work to step outside and take it like my smoke break but also at the same time it just looks cool and everyone had one,” Soper said. “They are all over YouTube, any social media influencer has one in a video or posted online, and now all these other companies are making off brand JUULS so they’ve kind of been blowing up.”
Although Soper is under the age requirement to buy a JUUL, he was able to use a prepaid card and order it offline, he said. Gaines said kids get their JUULs from older friends who sell it to them. According to JUUL’s mission statement, the company’s goal is to help tobacco smokers switch to a healthier alternative to cigarettes.
Infographic by Sarah Kuhlmann SOURCE: truthinitiative.org, tobaccafreekids.org, casaa.org
JUUL has been under controversy because of its high appeal to teenagers with flavors such as fruit medley and creme brulee. To try and prevent more underage teens from purchasing e-cigarettes, the FDA on April 6, 2018 started to uncover illegal e-cigarette sales and sent 40 warning letters to illegal retailers. They are also currently working with eBay to remove JUULs off the site, as well as ordering JUUL and other e-cigarette companies to produce documents that show the company’s marketing, research and design practices to understand why teengers are so attracted to the product.
“I can’t say I know anyone who’s had a bad experience [JUULing] besides them just breaking,” Soper said. “I’ve had some friends get in trouble at school but that’s because they’re kind of stupid. But I don’t really forreal do that in class.”
While Soper said his parents are aware but do not approve of his JUULing, Soper says he thinks his parents don’t really know what’s in it and are just glad he isn’t smoking marijuana or doing heavy drugs. Soper says because of the amount of JUULs at school, he thinks teachers are aware of them.
“Everyone’s just trying to be cool,” Soper said. “Everyone’s trying to hop on the new trend. I would say half the people that use it don’t know it’s bad for you. They honestly don’t care about it; they just want to be cool and are just thinking short term, for a good time.”