The JUUL: Is it the cause for the rise in nicotine addiction across young adults?
Written & Photos by Sheridan Smith
Video by Ruben Hernandez
The 1988 Surgeon General’s Report discovered that cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting, the pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine nicotine addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Cigarettes were finally deemed
harmful as many began fighting nicotine addiction. In 2006, electronic cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. to wean people off combustible ones.
“I smoked cigarettes at first, and then I went to vaping,” says student, Axel Anderson.
“Since it was so portable and so easy to change the cartridge, I decided I’d just go to [the Juul].”
A Juul is a specific kind of e-cigarette released in 2015. However, on Nov. 13, 2018 Juul CEO, Kevin Burns, released a statement about stopping flavored Juul pod sales to all 90,000 + retailers, as well as ceasing their social media presence.
The Truth Initiative states Juul accounts for 71.2 percent of e-cigarette sales since Aug. 2018. In Sept. 2018, the Federal Drug Administration stated that e-cigarette use among youths has hit record highs. This called for the largest enforcement effort in the FDA’s history to issue warnings and fines to retailers – online and brick and mortar – illegally selling JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors.
“I would say [I switched to the Juul] honestly because more people had the Juul,” says student, Kelsey Cantu. “It was like a thing, so I was like why not? It was more expensive, but it hits better.”
The difference between the Juul and other vapes is the use of pods instead of a refillable tank. One Juul pod consists of about 5% nicotine, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. But in vapes, the person may choose how much nicotine they would like in their refill juice.
Like other e-cigarettes, Juul’s intention is to help people who struggle with nicotine addiction – which it can – but it mainly attracts young adults and teenagers. The device has definitely made appearances on several school campuses, where it’s illegal to use. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2017 over 2.1 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes. Another study from last year found that one-fifth of students have seen Juuls in their schools.
“At my [high] school, a good amount of people in my grade used them,” says Cantu. “We would all go in the bathrooms during class and hit them. Especially if we had study hall and out [of class], we would all go in the bathroom and stay there for like a good hour or two and just Juul in the stalls,” says Cantu.
Teenagers and young adults seem to be attracted to the JUUL because of its design, easy access, fruity flavors and lack of scent. These assets allow the device to be easy to hide when in plain sight – such as in a classroom setting.
“It’s definitely easy to hide because you just keep the smoke in, and they don’t smell. It’s discreet, and you can hide it easily like I always had it on me at school,” says Cantu.
The Juul’s accessibility and design is a concern of numerous health associations, including Truth Initiative. The effect nicotine has on an adolescent’s mind is also a concern of theirs. People are aware of the effects of cigarettes, but the effects of Juuls and vaping have never really been unmasked to the consumer.
“I’m a coach for a living, so I run a lot and stuff. Because I vape so much, [the vape] would kind of affect me after a while because I was inhaling so much vapor. I [would feel it physically], and I don’t want to vape anymore, at least not as much, so I went to a different mod that I can actually regulate the [nicotine],” says Anderson.
Since so many people are attracted to the Juul, it’s also causing an increase in nicotine addiction across a generation that was supposed to be nicotine-free.
Cantu says, “Yes [I would say I’m addicted] because if I run out of pods, I always have to go get more because I feel the need to hit it more if I run out. I’ve tried to stop for like short periods of time, but then I’ll be like whatever and just do it again and buy more.”
Anderson says he switched from a Juul after three months after noticing he was going through a pod every few weeks.
“You can almost feel it because you’re inhaling all that juice, which is just vapor, and you can kind of feel it weigh you down for a little bit,” says Anderson. “It makes you take a break for a while, but then it’s super hard because of all the nicotine.”
There has been no concrete evidence as to the long-term effects e-cigarettes have on the human body. Individuals should be more educated on what they’re inhaling, to understand how it affects their body.