Vaping on campus: Is it still cool to Juul?

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years and haven’t been keeping up with the latest and greatest advancements in vape technology, meet the Juul, the flash-drive resembling, high-nicotine containing, non-FDA approved vape pen that’s become a popular and controversial accessory for college students.

Seizing more than half of the U.S. e-cigarette market share in just three years, Juul’s rapidly expanding customer base raises a national dilemma due to concerns about health risks and use by underage smokers.

Much of the Juul’s success has to do with its sleek design, accessibility and variety of “pod” flavors the brand has to offer. But critics say the product does less to get people to stop smoking cigarettes, and more to create a new generation of nicotine addicts who wouldn’t have taken up the habit of smoking without being exposed to the Juul.

Photoillustration credit: Unsplash free use
The FDA is studying the health effect of vaping.

“Juuls are just so convenient and mainstream now that everyone is using them,” said Ryan Stuebe, Sierra Nevada College graduate. “People who didn’t even smoke cigarettes in the first place have Juuls now.”

It’s rare to walk around SNC’s campus today without noticing someone puffing on their Juul or being trapped in the cloud of smoke student vapers leave behind them on their walk to class. Juuling has become such a social norm, it seems as if everyone has a Juul and that there’s no place Juuling is really off limits.

“Juuls are more readily available than a cigarette and are easier to attain,” SNC sophomore Keeley Haglund said. “Juuling is also more widely accepted. There isn’t a social stigma surrounding it like there is for smoking because it doesn’t smell.”

The Juul has two components: the rechargeable battery, which holds the temperature regulation system, and the “pod” which holds the e-liquid juice. The pod is inserted into the battery section to make it ready for use. It can be recharged as often as needed. Pods are made up of nicotine, glycerol and propylene glycol, benzoic acid and the flavoring, although non-nicotine products are available.

The sleek and discrete design of the Juul partnered with its user-friendliness gives the illusion that it’s not as bad for you as smoking cigarettes, because the vapor doesn’t produce smoke like traditional cigarettes. Although Juul and other competitor brand have proven to be a popular alternative to smoking cigarettes, the FDA is studying the issue of vaping to determine its potential negative health effects.

“I tried a Juul because I’m a social smoker, but wanted to try an alternative because I would feel horrible the next day after a night out from smoking cigarettes,” McKenna Bean, SNC senior sustainability major, said. “I bought my own Juul under the pretenses that it would be less hazardous for my body, but that wasn’t the case. I began to get stomachaches and loss of appetite due to the large amount of nicotine in the pods.”

Each Juulpod contains flavoring and 0.7 ml of e-liquid that contains 5 percent of nicotine by weight, which is the same amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes, according to Juul labs. It isseemingly much easier and faster to smoke. Pods costs approximately $5 each.

“I go through at least four pods a week probably, and that’s if I really try to conserve the pack,” Stuebe said. “I try to keep an eye on how many pods I use because it does affect my lungs and breathing.”

Juul’s cult-like following is steadily inclining, dominating 72 percent of the e-cigarette market at the end of 2017, surpassing other major e-cigarette brands like blu and Vuse and securing its position as the most popular e-cigarette today, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

But it has also proven popular with underage users in middle schools and high schools across the U.S. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.7 percent of high school students and 3.3 percent of middle-school students – more than 2.1 million minors – were current e-cigarette users in 2017.

“Juuls were a big problem at our school last year,” said Alyssa Fellows, Incline High School senior. “They’re now banned from school property and there can be big repercussions for students that don’t respect that.”

Many underage Juulers turned to the product because it’s easy to hide from parents and teachers, Juuls can be used indoors without attracting unwanted attention, has a variety of fruity flavors and, up until a few months ago, they were very easy to purchase online, in bulk, without proof of age.

Although the creators of Juul, former smokers James Monsees and Adam Bowen, say that their product was founded “with the goal of improving the lives of the one billion adult smokers,” according to Juul’s website, they say they are making efforts to ensure that their products stay out of minors’ hands. According to an interview on the website TechCrunch, the creators of the Juul are considering banning pod flavors most popular with underage consumers, mango and fruit medley.

“If Juul bans their popular fruit flavors minors will just move on to another flavor and they will lose a lot of their legal adult customers as well,” Jeweliah Rock, SNC senior, said. “I think teenagers are more concerned with looking cool in front of their friends than they they are with which flavor pod they choose.”

Due to the growing rate of underage juulers, the FDA has given Juul and four other major e-cigarette companies (Vuse, Blue, Markten XL and Logic) 60 days starting at the beginning of September to prove that they can keep their products away from minors.

The surgeon general of the United States says, “The use of products containing nicotine poses dangers to youth, pregnant women, and fetuses. The use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe.”

“I’d like to stop juuling, but it’s almost impossible because everyone has one. If you go to any social event, you’re bound to find at least one person that has their Juul on them,” Katie Lewis, SNC sophomore, said.

For users wary of vaping nicotine flavored liquid, there are other options, like the non-Juul affiliated, but Juul compatible, Relax CBD Vape Pods.

Relax pods do not contain any nicotine, are organic, and contain 40MG of CBD per pod. The company offers four flavors: banana split, peach mango, strawberry and spearmint. CBD, one of the five components that make up the cannabis plant, is being used more frequently today due to its perceived beneficial health and medical effects. Not to be confused with THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it will not get users high like traditional marijuana, but instead CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic and can help control nausea, proponents claim. This compound is already being used in modern medicine to treat arthritis, mood disorders and aiding people undergoing cancer treatments and can help with smoking cessation.