“Why Are These Stalls and Sinks in the Juul-rooms?”


image from The New York Times

Manav Midha '19, Contributor

“I’ll be right there—but I need to pick up some pods on the way.”

“My favorite flavor is Crème Brulee; what’s yours?”

“Dude, pass the Juul.

The advent of Juul-ing that has afflicted American high schools has continued despite increased media scrutiny and parents and schools’ knowledge of this phenomenon. This sleek device originally marketed to help adult smokers quit is one of the largest deliverers of nicotine to young people today and has ingrained itself as a fundamental part of many high schoolers’ days. It especially affects private school students, who have more access to resources to fund their addictions.[1] While politicians adhered to decades-old concepts of addiction continue to squabble, something must be done at the school and personal level to cure our generation of the unnamed disease that is Juul-ing.

The Juul device functions as a vaporizer, using its USB-charged battery to heat nicotine salts and the chemical slush they are bathed in.[2] Among other official flavors are Virginia Tobacco, Cool Mint, Crème Brulee, and Mango.[3] Flavor pods can also be modified to contain flavors or addictants—such as THC oil, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.[4] The chemicals in “juice,” the “e-liquid” vaporized by the Juul, include propylene glycol, glycerin, the aforementioned nicotine salts and flavorings, and likely traces of several potentially-carcinogenic substances, such as diethylene glycol and formaldehyde.[5] Chemical concerns aside, the Juul may transfer many orally-transmitted diseases between users who share devices. The Juul is easily concealable as a flash drive (does anyone really use those anymore though?) or a pencil lead case and has become to some users an appendage of their own body, unlosable.[6]

Officials at several levels of government have recently begun attempts at limiting the growth of the Juul. At the behest of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Juul Labs (the company that makes the Juul) in November of 2018 ceased the sale of many of its flavors in convenience stores.[7] These fruity flavors, which many believe are what attract younger users, can now only be purchased in specialty tobacco and vape stores and online (for users older than age 21).[8] In addition, Juul Labs stopped its aggressive social media campaign, which again disproportionately targets younger users, and began an anti-vaping marketing campaign, mostly on YouTube.[9] These ads, most of which can be forwarded through after five seconds, feature faux-Muppets discussing the harms of the Juul.[10] They are laughably, and likely deliberately, ineffective. At the local level, the City of Cincinnati in December of 2018 voted to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.[11] However, few of the suburbs surrounding Cincinnati have taken similar moves, rendering the City’s policy mostly moot, and potentially more harmful than before. While 18-year-old high school students are currently the largest suppliers of the Juul and Juul pods for underage users, the new policy will increase the age differential between suppliers and purchasers and correspondingly increase the possibility of coercion.

Schools are mostly helpless to resolve the issue of Juul-ing. While they take disciplinary action when made aware of specific instances of use, and include rudimentary information in Health class presentations, schools are limited in their enforcement of rules regarding this behavior. They rely on antiquated curricula aimed at limiting cigarette usage and often do not consider the modern technological advancements that are represented by Juul—limited odors and clear, rapidly-dissipated vapor. In fact, several studies indicate that the vast majority of Juul users have never tried a cigarette—that does not mean they are not more likely to later though, which evidence indicates they are.[12] Many Juul-ers actually abhor cigarettes and justify their vaping addiction because it is not smoking.[13] For this reason, one solution to the Juul epidemic is to pass a State law requiring Juul Labs and other vape companies to include an inert odorant in their e-liquid that can be recognized by parents and teachers. While this condition will undoubtably be challenged in the Courts, it will make drastically-easier enforcement of already-existent school rules and make it much more difficult for students to hide this illicit activity.

Parents and educators must also limit their misconceptions about Juul-ing. It is not only substandard students who Juul. Many users are top students.[14] Actually, nicotine is classified as a chemical stimulant, in the same category of drugs as caffeine and cocaine, and may improve academic performance by increasing focus.[15]

Just as roller coasters are enjoyed by amusement-park-goers seeking a sense of euphoric danger but the comfort of safety, so too are Juul devices abused by teenagers searching to fulfill their natural rebellious tendency with a seemingly-innocuous device. Except, as we learn more every day, the Juul is anything but consequence-free. Until an effective plan to resolve the epidemic of Juul is created and executed, high school students all over the Country will continue to whisper to their classmates…

“Why are these damn stalls and sinks in the Juul-rooms?”[16]

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/private-school-pupils-drug-alcohol-addictions-more-likely-new-research-money-fake-id-a7766951.html

[2] https://vapenews.com/vape-news/new-product-pax-labs-introduces-e-cigarette-juul/

[3] https://www.electrictobacconist.com/refills-c2/juul-m54

[4] https://www.ksn.com/news/kansas/two-arrested-after-juul-pods-were-found-with-thc-wax/1639278096

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallysatel/2018/04/11/why-the-panic-over-juul-and-teen-vaping-may-have-deadly-results/#48867042ea48; https://www.theverge.com/2016/7/27/12299784/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigs-chemicals-cancer-fda

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/health/vaping-juul-teens-addiction-nicotine.html

[7] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/13/juul-temporarily-suspends-retail-sales-of-most-flavored-e-cigarettes.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxz0vbyWpJc&list=PLt8WW_ZE9HQFze3_MJ_LtyAM2etYj5ia7

[11] https://www.wlwt.com/article/cincinnati-considers-raising-age-to-21-for-tobacco-sales/25510524

[12] https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2698112/prevalence-distribution-e-cigarette-use-among-u-s-adults-behavioral; https://www.thetruth.com/the-facts/fact-399

[13] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/health/vaping-juul-teens-addiction-nicotine.html

[14] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/private-school-pupils-drug-alcohol-addictions-more-likely-new-research-money-fake-id-a7766951.html

[15]  https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/brain-power/grades-6-9/legal-doesn%27t-mean-harmless-module-2/background

[16] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=JuulRoom