JUUL culture makes nicotine 'cool' again

If you’ve spent considerable time on just about any college campus in the last five years, you’ve probably seen someone walking around blowing big plumes of vapor. 

E-cigarettes and vapes have exploded in popularity after being introduced in the United States in 2006 —but in recent years a smaller, more discreet vape has had a meteoric rise. 

The JUUL, described on their website as “an easy to use vaporizer designed for adult smokers looking for a genuine alternative to smoking cigarettes,” has skyrocketed in popularity. The website also explicitly states “JUUL is a switching product. It is not intended as a cessation or quitting product.” 

Rechargeable through a USB, it truly can pass for a flash drive if seen at a glance. The sleek design of the vape is a real draw for those trying to avoid carrying around clunky vaporizers.

Sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences and self-proclaimed  “JUUL expert” Max Lazen explained his reasoning behind the JUUL’s success. 

“Cigarettes have always been an aesthetic choice, and people know cigarettes are bad for you," Lazen said. "But a lot of people are reluctant to switch to the large vape modules because they look so conspicuous and stupid. The JUUL offers an inconspicuous, sleek, smokeless cigarette alternative.”

The JUUL uses an e-liquid called JUULsalts, which is stored in 0.7 milliliter storage units called JUULpods. The pods are 5 percent nicotine by weight, and one pod is approximately equal to one pack of cigarettes. 

A pack of pods costs $15.99 and comes with four units. In 2017, Time Magazine reported the average price of a pack of cigarettes as $6.16, so JUULpods may be a smart fiscal choice for cigarette smokers.

JUUL has made a very self-contained product, as you can only use JUULpods to vape with the device. Other vapes can mix all sorts of e-liquids of a variety of flavors. The JUUL website lists the five different flavors    Virginia Tobacco, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley, Creme Brulee and Mango. 

"Even people that aren’t smokers are interested because it has appealing flavors,” Lazen said.

At Rutgers, vaping is following the popularity trends seen across the nation. It creates such good business that there are three combination vape and smoke shops located just two blocks apart from each other on George Street, and two more on Easton Avenue.

“It’s probably the best seller, it’s up there with the best selling vapes. The appeal of the JUUL is that you can feel the nicotine," John Moore-Alameda, an employee at Amsterdam Smoke Shop on Easton Avenue said of the JUUL's popularity. "With a lot of vapes, you don’t feel the nicotine in the same way you feel it with the JUUL.”  

When asked about the daily sales of JUULpods, it was evident that the product does incredibly well.

“A lot, more than I could even count. Individual pods, at least fifty or more,” Moore-Alameda said.

JUULs are popular among former cigarette smokers, but not everybody who tries them knows their primary purpose. Toju Agbeyegbe, a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences, didn’t know what the JUUL truly was at first. 

“At first, I just wanted to have a JUUL so I could practice smoke tricks,” Agbeyegbe said. 

After realizing the nicotine content, he stopped using the vape. “The nicotine levels are too high for me since I’m not a cigarette smoker,” Agbeyegbe said.

JUUL is an attractive vape as it remains subtle but is highly functional. The vape can also save smokers money over time, which can be an additional perk for the expensive habit. It seems like a great alternative for cigarette smokers, but those looking to “hit the JUUL” for aesthetic value should be wary of the high nicotine content and vape at their own risk.

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