By Lauren Miller
A Juul is an e-cigarette that is supposed to be an alternative for adult smokers 18 and older. So how did the United States end up with a teenage Juuling problem?
Juuling is indirectly advertised to youth, starting at age 12. Some of the allure is the sleek flash-drive appearance. Teens are also fascinated by the cool flavors and their ability to look like a dragon when they exhale the vapor. Different designs can be put on the Juul and Juuling tricks can earn kids street credit.
But experts say Juuling is dangerous, especially for kids.
“They literally cannot grasp the long-term effects of Juuling because their brains are not fully developed yet, and they lack that capability,” said Dr. Janna Davis from the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
Some kids started Juuling because their friends had the e-cigarette and it is the “cool” thing to do, but they didn’t research the long-term side effects. Grant Miller, a Pasadena resident who is attending the University of Alabama, came home with a Juul during the fall break of his first semester.
“Everyone else was doing it, so I figured why not get one?” he said.
This mentality is a major key to the sale of Juul products. Miller has since quit, saying, “It was a very expensive waste of time. I don’t want to be addicted to nicotine either. So I stopped.”
But this opinion is not common among young people, most of whom continue the bad habit. How is Juuling bad for your health? One side effect is popcorn lungs, which is exactly what it sounds like. When the lungs are scanned, they resemble popcorn. This happens because the harmful chemicals in the Juul pod juice cause the smallest parts of the lungs to stop functioning — damage that is irreversible. This can lead to shortness of breath and a struggle to breathe, along with a chronic cough. Nicotine, the main addictive ingredient in Juul pods, increases blood pressure and decreases wound healing rates.
And while all of these medical effects seem scary, these are the only confirmable ones at this time. Juuling is a new concept, so scientists have not had years to study the effects as they have for traditional smoking. Teenagers are essentially the volunteer guinea pigs until the effects start showing.
So how do we stop the Juul problem? Educating adults is one step. Most parents do not know what a Juul looks like; some assume that it is a flash drive. This makes it easier for kids to conceal them. Other parents do not know how harmful the Juul is. According to the Juul website, the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod is equivalent to 20 traditional cigarettes. One pack of Juul pods is about $15 to $20, so if a teen is repeatedly asking for $20 bills or spending that amount of money in gas stations, the teen might have a Juul.
The Food and Drug Administration has threatened to ban the sale of Juul pods from gas stations and convenience stores if Juul Labs doesn’t keep its product from minors. Hopefully with more rules and enforcement, and with more research on the negative side effects of Juuling, the problem will be fixed.