Relaxation, minty flavors, and a head rush that makes everything around you stop in time. A quick fix to any stressful situation you may face throughout your day. A slick, easy to conceal device that everyone around you wants to try. It is fairly new, insanely popular, and most of the kids in school are using it, it’s called the Juul. One by one, the lives of teenagers are being controlled by this “cool” gadget everyone wants to try. You’re considered a part of a “secret society” if you own a vape. Adults don’t even notice that you’re doing it. It holds a sense of power through its secrecy. You share each-others if you forget yours at home or break it. Having a Juul gives you instant connections. It is a key conversation starter for people that can be rather shy and is commonly being expressed on Instagram as a way to pick up attractive girls. A typical pick-up line you would hear at a party would be, “What flavor do you have?” or “Can I hit your Juul?”
Knowing what it is like to be addicted to vaping since high school, and knowing how hard it is to quit (I have tried a countless number of times) I have to question… “what’s going to happen to us vapers?” Especially now with a Pandemic upon us? Are we going to stop hitting each-others vapes? Are we going to stop using them? We have no idea whether the next pandemic or COVID-19, could potentially wipe out the majority of our youth. We have no idea the outcomes of this highly addictive weapon we are encompassing ourselves and our youth to. Whether you work at a smoke shop, market these products, or are a teacher or concerned parent, we all have a part to play.
There are plenty of new, electronic cigarettes that catch the eye of teens far and wide, probably because it was meant to. Companies have made deliberate manufacturing designs to appeal to teenagers. It’s a small device that looks like a USB drive where you can pick its color and flavor as well as even clip it to your pants, making it easily accessible. According to public health insider, Carley Thompson (2018), “Flavored tobacco products have been proven to appeal to young people and facilitate the start of tobacco product use.” Flavors like cool mint, mighty mango, creme brulee, and cool cucumber are the most universally used, all coming from the Juul, noticing how most of them begin with “cool”. You can even wave it around and an entrancing rainbow light will appear. Everyone, even down to my best friend’s younger siblings are smoking these new e-cigs.
Marketing for these devices has pinpointed their primary target, ones who are naïve and easily manipulated – the youth. Jonathan Winickoff (2018) a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School said, “It’s absolutely unconscionable. The earlier these companies introduce the product to the developing brain, the better the chance they have a lifelong user.” Our brains are still developing and what a lot of young people do not understand is that just because there is no tar or tobacco does not make it any less toxic. Jia Tolentino from the New Yorker (2018) claims, “The younger the brain, the more easily its reward circuits can be manipulated: the vast majority of adult smokers began before age eighteen.” As well as the pressure and pursuit of trying to fit in, it’s easy to persuade kids if they think everyone else is doing it. It’s easy to manipulate adolescents to smoke because there is still no real evidence brought to light on what E-cigs and Juuls will actually do to our health.
It has been noticeably easy to get your hands on a vape if you are under 21, making it extremely easy to continually purchase these products without getting caught. Some of these websites are presenting very few obstacles, often making you confirm your age without providing any real evidence. Jia Tolentino (2018) interviewed a student named Kate from Houston, who says, “Kids can buy Juuls in bulk on eBay and Alibaba with prepaid debit cards and a little creativity.” As well as from countless vape stores and smoke shops that are continuously breaking the law and selling to minors, to make a profit.
Not only the user, but families and friends who do not smoke are negatively affected by this new nicotine epidemic as well. Kids are becoming more irritated and agitated at things that would not normally upset them. Jia Tolentino (2018), from the New Yorker, says, “Nicotine is both a stimulant and a relaxant: it peps you up when you’re tired, and if you’re anxious it calms you down.” Without it, you may not be able to properly control your emotions. Many teenagers rely on this device for their happiness, and without it they are lost and lonely. It starts with anger and frustration, even progressing to sadness and depression from withdrawals. Mostly the smoker and their health are the ones negatively affected. However, it can severely damage relationships, and even break them beyond repair. While your life is destructing, the people that are inventing these innovative devices are gaining millions.
Nicotine addiction in adolescence has significantly risen within the last few years, and we can blame that on the popular new smoking devices marketed specifically towards teenagers. The fact that it doesn’t have tobacco or tar makes vaping seem okay to younger kids. We had been told it is only flavored water vapor and we ran with that idea. Unfortunately, this is not true, and we are inhaling toxins. If the cotton inside the Juul or vape pod becomes burnt, you are producing even more chemicals and inviting them into your lungs. Most kids (especially the ones that I know) are running through a four-pack of Juul pods within a week. Carley Thompson (2018) claims, “Many teens think vaping isn’t that harmful, but a single JUUL pod (a cartridge of e-liquid) is roughly equal to a pack of cigarettes, or 200 cigarette puffs.” We think we are invincible now because we don’t see the harmful effects yet, we assume nothing will happen to us. This is what everyone believes until your health catches up to you.
Nicotine addiction has rapidly risen in numbers within the past couple of years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), “If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans, younger than 18, will die early from a smoking-related illness.” These drastic numbers of fatalities could be prevented, and here’s how. These devices shouldn’t be so easily accessible. We cannot change the fact that kids have started smoking nicotine at a middle school/high school age. However, we can start focusing on ways to relate to these kids for one, so they can better recognize the awful effects it has on your physical and mental health. We can also help our children and students in finding resources and support, also by giving them some time, allowing them to quit. We should take control of the situation, rather than sitting by and watching millions of kids get addicted to such an unhealthy lifestyle.
There are some anti-smoking commercials and advertisements circulating to help educate teen users, however, in my opinion, they are losing the battle. Watching two girls in a bedroom smoking a vape is certainly not going to get me off of it. We need to reach different platforms so that kids can understand the severe lifelong consequences it has to their health and well-being, hopefully before they start. This new wave of nicotine addiction is not being taken as seriously as it should. This is a new epidemic for our younger generation, and their health is on the line. Due to how recent these new devices have come out we still haven’t figured out an effective way to educate our youth so that kids won’t pick it up to begin with.
The only thing stopping a solution to this huge problem is the lack of education on the side effects of these products and the resources to truly support young people who are trying to quit. Some kids may not be able to hear us, and to get all kids to stop using these devices is almost impossible. Although, we can get them to look at it as something not worth its many consequences. We need to make sure teenagers and young adults see all of the harm associated with it, rather than them thinking it’s “cool.” One of the biggest underlying reasons kids pick up these habits in the first place is because they believe everyone around them is doing it, and if they don’t, they may feel unincluded and not fully connected to their peers. They may even lose friends over it, as well as relationships. Kids may become hostile, agitated, and even aggressive due to common nicotine withdrawals. We need to elaborate on these provoking side effects, and with more research, we can better understand the many underlying effects of these nicotine juices and vapors. We can start by making this rapid, quick-hitting addiction a time of extinction.