The Juul of Teen Nicotine Addiction
The Juul looks like a computer flash drive but it is a vaping device. It’s sleek, it’s discrete, and it’s becoming very popular with underage nicotine users.
Juul, the company that manufactures the device, states it targets only adults; however, the nicotine liquid flavors include “virginia tobacco, cool mint, fruit medley, creme brulee & mango,” which are arguably appealing to children. “Juuling,” has become a disturbing trend in schools and is increasing at an alarming rate. More than one school, including an entire Pennsylvania school district, have banned flash drives in an effort to prevent juuling by underage school children.
According to a Kaiser Health News article, schools are rolling out programs to prevent juuling by underage students. According to the article, Milagros Vascones-Gatski, a substance abuse counselor in Arlington, Virginia, has “never seen a tobacco product become so popular so quickly” and predicts it will be the “health problem of the decade.” That sentiment was repeated on the Today Show by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician: “I do think this is one of the big threats to teen health right now.”
The “flash drive” vaping device is “light” in weight, but it is certainly not light in nicotine. Each liquid pod contains 0.7mL with 5% nicotine by weight which is equal to 1 pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs. This level can easily lead to nicotine addiction which is what traditional tobacco companies banked on to keep their billion-dollar businesses in the black for decades. Vaping companies (which are nearly 50% owned by tobacco companies) seem to be heading in the same direction with their nicotine liquid products. Some companies also sell a non-nicotine alternative—Juul is not one of these. They only offer liquid pods with nicotine.
Subreddit threads on juuling provide insight into underage use. “Yo lemme hit ur juul” has become a popular cry in bathrooms where kids are reported to be selling juul hits for $3 a pop. Several comments refer to “cravings” as the impetus to pay. Juuling is a popular teen discussion topic on Instagram and Twitter as well.
According to studies in National Institute of Health (NIH) database, Nicotine addiction is “well known to have serious systemic side effects in addition to being highly addictive. It adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lungs, and kidneys.” In addition to the risk of nicotine addiction, recent studies have shown inhaling the vapor from e-cigarettes like Juul increases the risk of lung damage, increases levels of cancer-causing toxins, and may cause other damaging health conditions including heart ailments and even bladder cancer. Experts agree the best way to prevent these health problems is abstaining from smoking and from vaping.