The e-cigarette phenomenon is not just vapor and mirrors

by Massimo Tornambe

Cigarettes. Since the late 18th century, they have been a major vessel for nicotine. It wasn't until relatively recently that they've been exposed for their horrifically unhealthy nature. Generations upon generations have been warned of the negative effects that accompany these tar-filled death sticks. However, as technology advanced, so did the world of drugs. This revolution was spearheaded by the birth of the vaporizer, or vape. Today, smoke shops throughout the world are riddled with vapes of all shapes and sizes. Yet there is a new device that is gaining a reputation for itself among its younger users. This device is the JUUL™ e-cigarette. Juul is thin, rectangular, and quite small. As opposed to packs of cigarettes, Juul uses small pods filled with "juice." Said juice is heated and vapor is produced. Each Juul pod contains 0.7mL of juice, 5% of which is nicotine, according to the JUUL website.

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Walking up and down the streets of Manhattan, I've seen dozens of Juuls in the hands of kids my age. I'm 16. With what started as the allure to do something illegal, Juul has now embedded itself into teenage culture alongside the use of other illegal substances. Typically, the use of Juuls will take place with drinking at parties or among friends. More and more kids are buying Juuls from smoke shops around the city, and the fun then leads to addiction. The exotic flavors each pack of pods presents goes hand in hand with the fiercely addictive nature of nicotine.

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Countless Instagram accounts dedicated to Juul have appeared over the past year. While I know Juul is also prevalent among public schools, I cannot speak towards the extent of its use there. I can, however, describe the omnipresence this device possesses within the private school system. My peers have the tendency to mingle with other kids from many other schools, which gave my classmates and I perspective upon other schools. They're all nice, they're all similar to mine, and a large percentage of their student bodies Juul. Instagram accounts, public use, and proud boasting all display that every school within the New York City private school community has Juul users in its midsts. While some parents may be concerned by this statement, the fact is they can do little about it. Efforts have been made to establish rules that immediately expel anyone caught Juuling within the aegis of their school. There are three things that drive the popularity of Juul: the buzz, the accessibility, and the fact that everyone else is doing it. The nicotine delivered through the Juul vapor provides a lightheaded, tingly feeling, similar to a head rush, which is one of the easiest feelings to obtain from a drug compared to its competitors. Especially since, within Manhattan, Juul is very easily obtainable.

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Walk into one of the many smoke shops that pepper the streets and almost all of them have Juul paraphernalia. Many of these have a sign on the front door stating: "no tobacco products under 21, we check ID!" Yet, many of them don't card. Even the ones that do still accept almost any of the wide variety of fake IDs kids carry. Juul has created a vaping subculture (even though it isn't considered a vape), that has a huge following. In short, it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. No matter the rules put in place and the restrictions placed before us, teenagers will find a way to do illegal things. Juuling is one of them. It's in our nature to reject what's laid out for us, and to defy adults at every chance we get. So, worried parents, you'll have to come to terms with the newest form of teenage backlash.

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Like with most recreational activities, Juuling is accompanied by some health risks. However, these are typically either exaggerated or misconstrued. They definitely should be taken seriously by those who choose to partake in Juuling. One common misconception is the possibility of getting popcorn lung from Juul. This illness is contracted through the inhalation of Diacetyl, a chemical found in flavored vape liquid. However, Diacetyl is not used in Juul pods whatsoever. The main harmful component in Juul is the nicotine. It's the fifth most addictive drug in the world, and it is a carcinogen. Carcinogens increase the risk of various types of cancer and heart disease. JUUL™ has warned users of the risks on its website, including the impending risk it has on minors. It seems like teens don't care whatsoever, because they have and will continue to use Juul no matter the negative effects it may have. So, those of you concerned may just have to wait for this all to blow over. If it ever does.

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