Juuling in School Doesn’t Make You Cool

Mango, Mint, Cucumber, and Fruit Punch are appealing flavors to teens. Generation Z is addicted to nicotine, much like generations before us. We don’t smoke cigarettes; we smoke something else, and we won’t know what the effects are until we’re much older.

Maddie Gudrian, Editor

Juul Labs, formerly known as Pax Labs, is responsible for creating the Juul. The company claims it was not targeted towards teens, but many parents, doctors, and lawyers are questioning both how teens are getting ahold of the e-cigarette and how they can stop this epidemic from growing.

According to Good Morning America and the CDC, In 2016, 2.2 million devices were sold; in 2017 that number skyrocketed by over 600%, 16.2 million devices were sold. The state of Massachusetts and families across the US are suing the company for their appeal to teens. The Massachusetts Attorney General believes the company designed the devices to be sleek to rope teens in and have customers for life. When sales skyrocketed, the company figured it was teens, but did not start to combat the epidemic until recently. Teens were able to buy the device through older siblings, or online sites.

“First, they [Juul Labs] just knew it was being bought for resale,” said a former senior manager for Juul Labs during an interview with The New York Times. “Then, when they saw the social media, in the fall and winter of 2015, they suspected it was teens.”

The Washington Post reported that in San Diego, a teen came home complaining to his mom that he lost his flash drive and ‘needed it for his homework’. She posted on a neighborhood chat and asked her neighbors to help find it. One person responded telling the mom that it was in fact not a flash drive, but a Juul. If kids are losing these and replacing them, that’s a sign of addiction. One pod contains 3-5 percent of nicotine. Say you have one pod a week over the course of 5 weeks, that’s about 100 cigarettes. If you smoke 100 cigarettes within 5 weeks, you’re addicted to nicotine. Teens are so addicted that they complain about craving nicotine and fiends. According to NBC News, one student combated fiending by charging freshmen $3 dollars a hit.

Jenny Sexton, a substance-abuse counselor for Arlington County schools in Virginia, worries students may mistake the fruity flavors of the Juul pods for a benign product when they’re actually filled with nicotine and can be reloaded with THC oil (an extract of marijuana) or unregulated substances.

“The youth will share them and they use this and we’re concerned that they’re consuming something with high levels of nicotine and may not be aware of it,” Sexton said in an interview with the Washington Post.

The main reason people believe Juul targeted towards teens is that of the flavors. I assume most adults wouldn’t be attracted to fruity flavors if they want to stop smoking cigarettes. Robert Jackler, the principal investigator at Stanford University School of Medicine made the comparison of Juul flavors and cereal.

If you walk down the cereal aisle in the grocery store, where the Cocoa Krispies and Sugar Puffs are at knee level and Cornflakes and Life are up high where adults see them,” Jackler said in an interview with the Washington Post. “There’s a different appeal of sweet and fruity flavors to young people,”.

The flavors draw teens in, but most don’t know what makes the flavor, what nicotine does, the chemicals that are in the product or the illnesses other teens are being diagnosed with.

The main issue is of course nicotine, it slows down the growth of the frontal cortex of the brain; this part of the brain doesn’t stop growing until about age 26. Nicotine makes people feel happy, it increases the heart rate and causes addiction, according to WebMD.

One of the chemicals, Diacetyl was used in popcorn factories to add flavors to the popcorn to make it taste buttery. Thankfully, popcorn companies stopped using the chemical because of employees being diagnosed with a form of bronchitis called “popcorn lung”.  

Teenagers are being diagnosed with Popcorn Lung because of the flavors in e-cigarettes.

Other harmful chemicals include Propylene glycol, a chemical used to make artificial smoke for a fog machine. Glycerin, a chemical viewed as safe when ingested through food or over-the-counter medications; the FDA does not know what happens when it is inhaled. Formaldehyde, a flammable liquid used in many household products.

Acetaldehyde, a flammable liquid used to make perfume and the metabolism of alcohol; it can cause respiratory paralysis, which causes death. Acrolein causes heart disease in smokers.

My mom, Patty Gudrian, is an insurance underwriter. She insures technology devices like computers, cars, and e-cigarettes. When she started to insure e-cigarettes, she warned me about the chemicals that are in e-cigarettes, but I didn’t believe her until I saw freshmen becoming addicted to nicotine.

“A majority of insurance companies and I say a majority, not all, a majority of insurance companies have a health hazard exclusion, which means that they won’t cover a long-term health side effect,” Gudrian said. “But ultimately with e-cigs or Juuls the biggest concern is the long-term side effects because we just don’t know what they are. It’s not like the cigarette industry where you know people did it for a long time and it took 30, 40, 50 years for side effects to really be known.”

Juul Labs is currently being sued by multiple groups of people affected by the device. The FDA isn’t sure if vaping is better or worse for the human body, if Juul was targeted towards teens, what the effects of vaping are after a long period of time. Unfortunately, our generation is the test subject. Scientists won’t know until we’re in our mid-50s, and by that time, it could have caused more damage than smoking cigarettes.

“These devices are so hard to insure because they’re a new item on the marketplace, and because the fact is we don’t know what the side effects are of using them,” Gudrian said. “Also most of them are made in China, and the laws in China are not fantastic. They’re different, so it’s harder to sue them.”

According to Vox, “An 18-year-old woman was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as “wet lung,” a few weeks after taking up vaping. The chemicals in the e-cigarettes, the doctors hypothesized, caused an allergic reaction in her lungs that led to respiratory failure and forced her on to a breathing machine until her lungs recovered.”

This fad has taken over lives so rapidly that scientists and doctors are struggling to keep up. There is not a lot of research on what exactly juuling or vaping does to the human body, but researchers can infer the effects are similar to cigarettes. Once a teen starts vaping, it’s almost impossible to stop. According to Business Insider, teens who vape are seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes than a teen who never tries an e-cigarette.

Meg Kenny, the assistant head of school at Burr and Berton Academy in Manchester, Vermont told The New York Times, “I don’t recall any fad, legal or illegal, catching on in this way,” she adds. “Ninety-five percent of the disciplinary infractions we dealt with in the fall and continue to deal with into the spring are all connected to the Juul,”. Students at her school are Juuling in bathrooms, in class, and on the bus. Because it’s against the school’s rules, they hide the devices in ceiling tiles and in their bras and underwear.”

Juul Labs, the CDC, and the FDA want to get teens to stop vaping. The only way to combat the rising epidemic is to take the flavored pods off the market. On Tuesday, November 13, the FDA and Juul Labs announced Juul flavors mango, cucumber, creme, and fruit punch, would only be available on Juul Labs website.

If you don’t vape, don’t start. We’re supposed to be the generation to end smoking, but if teens continue vaping we’ll have to make another generation have that title. We can be the generation to end vaping and smoking if teens and parents work together to combat this epidemic.