The E-Cigarette Epidemic

Just because they may not be as bad as traditional cigarettes, doesn't mean they're safe

JUULs are everywhere. It seems more people than not have them, especially among young adult populations on college campuses. Due to their appealing flavors, scents and generally discreet packaging, vapes and JUULs have passed under the radar for a while in regard to their impact on health.  Yes, it’s time for me to be that person. Are you really aware of what you’re inhaling into your body?

What are JUULs?

The small e-cigarette first launched in 2015 as a “healthier” alternative to traditional cigarettes, for current smokers.

JUULs consist of two main parts: the body and the pods. The body of the e-cigarette closely resembles a USB.

Pods, containing the substance which users smoke, clip into the body of the JUUL. These come in tons of flavors including cucumber, mango, mint, and many others.

The vapor produced when smoking JUULs honestly smells good, leading to their vast appeal among smokers and non-smokers alike.

The Ingredients

According to Tobacco Free Florida, 63 percent of youth and young adult users questioned in a survey didn’t know that JUULs contained nicotine.

Each pod contains just as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs.

The ingredients include glycerol and propylene glycol, nicotine, benzoic acid, and flavorants.

While little is known about the impact of these ingredients, nicotine is extremely addictive and has undeniable side effects.


Overall Impact

Nicotine use has been scientifically proven to affect brain development, especially in youth, JUULs largest user-demographic.

According to BuzzFeed News interview with Dr. Harold J. Farber, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine a pulmonologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, nicotine alters brain chemistry so that the brain cannot function normally without it.

The Public Health Law Center states that, “Exposure to nicotine can damage brain development by disrupting and altering the growth and structure of the circuitry that controls attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction.”

It’s also crucial to note that brain development continues into one’s early to mid-20s, the majority of JUUL’s customer base.

Beyond the addiction-inducing impact of JUULs, little is known due to lack of long-term research available, compared to traditional cigarettes which have existed long enough for research uncovering their deadly affects to surface. However, rest assured that the vapor definitely is not harmless.

“E-cigs might be safer than the most toxic delivery method for nicotine, combustible cigarettes, but they are in no way safe. And it’s never just ‘vapor’ you are inhaling – it’s vapor plus irritants, toxins, and nicotine,” said Farber to BuzzFeed News.

Research has also found that those who use e-cigarettes during youth are more likely to go on to use conventional tobacco products.

E-cigarettesImage via Ad Age

Questionable Intentions

While JUUL insists their product is and was always aimed towards being a “less harmful” alternative for current smokers, and not targeting youth in any way, it’s hard to ignore the inevitable youth-appeal of candy-like flavors such as crème brulee.

A study even indicated that 43 percent of youth users tried e-cigarettes because of the available flavors.

According to their website, JUUL does “not feature images or situations intended for a youth audience,  only post social media content targeting adult smokers, and ensure responsible placement of [their] product designed to limit exposure to an underage demographic.”

But, despite JUUL’s intentions, the CDC found that 16%  of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2016, compared to 1.5% the previous year.

While JUUL makes strides to prevent usage among youth, such as through hiring a director of youth prevention and education, other e-cigarette companies are not nearly as transparent with their intentions.

V2, another e-cigarette company, offers a scholarship to incoming graduate and undergraduate students who write an essay about the negative impacts of smoking and how vapor products have minimized smoking’s negative effects.

In 2013, blue eCig’s sponsored Sasquatch! Music Festival where they hosted The Vapor Lounge, “featuring surprise guest appearances from some of the festival’s top performers,” and “conducted giveaways for coveted general admission tickets…and VIP tickets…to attendees during the sold-out event.”e-cigarette

Image via Smithsonian Magazine

Don’t Fall for It

Doctor-endorsed cigarette advertisements from the 1930s, in a world where everyone smoked, seem outlandish and comical now. How could anyone ever believe something so detrimental to your health was actually good for you?

It seems the future of e-cigarettes may head in a similar direction as more and more of younger populations decide to pick up the habit.

Addiction isn’t glamorous. It never has been and never will be. It’s not fun or funny and anyone who’s experienced it will repeat that same message.

No matter what companies sell you on: taste, aesthetic, or supposed “benefits,” at the end of the day, they have one goal: to make money. They don’t care about your health, they care about your dollars, how you spend them and doing (and saying) whatever they can to maintain your business.

They goal is convincing you that without this product you’re incomplete in some facet of your life. Is that ideology something you really want to subscribe to? Don’t let yourself become a victim of corporate manipulation.

If you’re looking to nicotine as means of relaxation or “fitting in,” I can assure you there are tons of other healthier and less expensive ways of accomplishing these goals.

Stomp the Habit

Weening yourself off of nicotine isn’t an easy process, but I promise you it’s worth it in the end.

When (not if) you decide to quit nicotine altogether, you can expect some unpleasant side effects including:

  • Strong nicotine cravings
  • Irritability
  • Decreased moon
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Mood unpredictability
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Digestive Issues
  • And more…

These symptoms occur between four and 24 hours after your last inhalation and peak around day three.  Not all the side effects are bad, though. Some positive things you may notice could be improved sense of smell and taste and decreased lung irritation, alongside a new-found independence!

For information on nicotine replacement therapy options visit: 

Cover image via CNBC


Also published on Medium.

Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...