November 15, 2018 | ° F

EDITORIAL: JUULing has become new smoking


Vaporizable nicotine is disproportionately popular among youth


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In 1965, more than 42 percent of people smoked cigarettes. In 2014, with ample available information about cigarette smoking’s link to cancer, that number has decreased to less than 17 percent. Emerging on a large scale in 2003, e-cigarettes and vaporizers have presumably helped some smokers wean off of their addiction to cigarettes by providing, to our current knowledge, a much less harmful alternative.

This alternative to smoking is no doubt a good thing in certain circumstances — as is anything that helps decrease the world’s total number of smokers. But in these products’ wake has arisen a new trend among young people. Relatively recently, a specific kind of discreet vaporizer, the JUUL, has become increasingly popular, exceeding the popularity of the regular “vape” or e-cigarette, at least in high schools and on college campuses. JUULs come with what are called “pods,” which are removable and are the piece of the device which contains nicotine. Pods come in flavors like mango, creme brulee and fruit medley and each one holds the equivalent amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes

The fact that these devices are so popular with young people today, having the potential to be an industry worth $27 billion by 2022, should come as no surprise. Despite the high levels of nicotine in the product — which ensure its popularity by making people addicted — these devices are amazingly discreet. High schoolers and college students who previously would have never used nicotine are now able to abuse it more easily than ever. These products look like USBs and are extremely concealable. Unless you are looking for it, they also give off no blatant smell like cigarettes do — a major plus if you are in high school and are trying to get a buzz without your parents finding out. The vapor that comes out of them is much less dense than cigarette smoke and disappears much more rapidly, making JUULing in class easy to get away with. Not to mention the device’s kid-friendly flavors and fun light fixture. All of these things make JUULs even more abusable than cigarettes.

JUULs are obviously not more harmful than cigarettes, so it is reasonable to find some solace in being able to say, “at least they are not smoking.” But we must delve a bit deeper on the topic, because there is evidence that suggests e-cigarettes and vaporizers also deliver toxic chemicals to the body, such as formaldehyde, nitrosamines and lead. Granted, one drag of a cigarette is likely more harmful than that of a JUUL or vaporizer. In occasional instances, the chemicals in JUULs and vaporizers are probably not likely to cause a person harm. But remember what we have established — these devices are significantly more abusable than cigarettes. Smokers are not able to take a drag of their cigarette every 5 minutes at work or in class, but a JUUL allows them to do that. After a while, the consumption of those small amounts of formaldehyde, lead or other chemicals snowballs into a large amount. 

College students, for the most part, are adults and should be able to make their own mature decisions about their life. If they want to vape or JUUL, they should be able to do so. But it seems obvious that these addicting products are blatantly marketed toward young people, and are beginning to pervade youth culture. Addiction to these products should be called what it is — a compulsive, drug-seeking tendency. 

Nicotine is a drug, and it is not easy to quit. While many students and young people may look at vaping or JUULing as a fad that they will grow out of, this is likely not the case. Like alcoholism, addiction to these devices is real and permanent. So it may be helpful for us, as a community and a society, to at least take a step back and think twice as our generation plunges deeper into the existing culture of addictive and drug-dependent habits. 

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The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 


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