The problem with Juul

E-cigarette product gains popularity among students

For confidentiality purposes, the sources are referred to as Jane Doe and Marie Major.

Put in a cartridge. Turn on the machine. Plug it into its charger when done. This is not about playing video games; this is about smoking.

One particular type of e-cigarette has become increasingly popular among students in recent months: the JUUL, dubbed “the iPhone of e-cigs” by Junior Jane Doe says she personally knows roughly twenty JUUL users. The device is seen by many teens as a nice alternative to other types of cigarettes or drugs.

“I don’t do any other drugs. I have never smoked weed, I don’t really drink that much. So JUUL is another social gathering or party thing that you can use when other people are doing other stuff. Just because I’m not into drugs or drinking, it’s a different option,” Doe said.

Doe has been using JUUL— made by Pax Labs— for “about four or five months,”and says that she smokes exclusively at social events. Another junior, Marie Major, has been doing so for roughly one month, and says she is “probably addicted.” Both of them point to increased use of the product among their friends as the way they were introduced to it, and both of them say that JUUL users are almost exclusively teens or college-age kids.

“I heard about it from a couple of friends. I didn’t really know what it was. At first I thought it was marijuana infused, but I came to realize that wasn’t the case at all. Slowly, basically all of my friends started using it and getting it. And so one day, I just went out and bought it,” Major said. “I never saw any advertisements for it. It was pretty much all just social. I found out about it by communicating with friends and just seeing it at social gatherings.”

Major describes the JUUL device itself as a “rectangular black figure, probably the size of a large middle finger,” that can be “taken anywhere, hidden anywhere.” Cartridges, or “pods,” containing a cocktail of nicotine and “juice” are inserted into the device. The contents of these pods, which can be different flavors and come in packs of four, are heated before being inhaled by the user. Each pod has a nicotine content equivalent to that of a pack of cigarettes, according to Pax Labs.

“When you inhale it, it’s like a cigarette, but just way more mild. And so usually, it just gives you a nice head rush for about anywhere from ten seconds to two minutes, and depending on the type of flavor you get, the concentration of nicotine can be more or less. And depending on how much you inhale it, it affects your feeling all day. But usually a small amount is a nice, relieving feeling,” Major said. “I probably do a hundred puffs a day, so I know I probably use it more than I should.”

Both Major and Doe say that they do not know “too much” about the long-term effects of using JUUL as minors, which is illegal. A report by the US Surgeon entitled “E-Cigarette Use Among Young Adults” claims that nicotine is “unsafe” for use “among youth,” and that “the effects of nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood … can include lower impulse control and mood disorders.”

“Obviously, I’m worried about the side effects, but I’m not as worried because I know I’m not addicted to it. So the side effects are always in the back of my mind, but it’s better than drinking or smoking weed,” Doe said.

Doe does plan to quit some time in the future, but does not believe that professional help will be necessary. Major is also confident that she will be able to quit on her own.

“I liked the aesthetic of it, how it looked and how it felt, breathing it in and having something like that as a cleaner alternative to cigarettes. Everyone was doing it around me. But now that I come to think about it, there’s really no meaning or importance of it,” Major said. “I want to quit eventually, just because it’s a lot of money to keep buying the pods, and I probably should quit. I feel like I will eventually, but as of now, I’m probably just going to keep doing it.”