The Crown Juul

Juuling is a widespread, alarmingly important problem that can only be solved in one way: education.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Jennifer Sun

Imagine you’re a freshman at Stuyvesant High School on your first day. You’ve endured an hour-long commute to school, and you’ve found yourself on a bridge, almost unable to move in a crowd of students and completely surrounded in a sea of smart kids you have yet to meet. You crane your neck for even the smallest glimpse of the prestigious school you’ve worked so hard to get into. When the floodgates open and the crowd finally begins to pour in, you take your first step, taking everything in. Going from class to class feels a bit like a unique journey in its own right. The enrapturing sunset view of the Hudson and skyline from the cafeteria, giant (and probably ancient) paintings on the walls of the school, and brilliance of the students are all stunning.

That is, until you reach the bathrooms.

One can only go so far into one’s Stuyvesant career without encountering vaping, whether one sees friends, fellow students, or even complete strangers on the street near the school sucking on their USB drive-inspired pens. The most widespread form of vaping is Juuling, which is simply vaping using the massively popular e-cigarette called the Juul; the Juul itself is named after the company that produces it, Juul. Juul is that prevalent. And no wonder. It spends millions of dollars on youth influencers that appeal to teens, and this month, it announced a new $10 million-ad campaign in an attempt to reconstruct its image, just after it partnered with Big Tobacco and Altria. The partnership benefited both parties immeasurably in the form of billions of dollars obtained through marketing. However, it is done so at the cost of public health. Juul’s actions have been questionable at best and atrocious at worst. The company’s attempts to bar teens from buying its products started only after it got a caustic letter from FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who excoriated Altria (one of the world’s largest tobacco corporations, which also happened to have a 35 percent stake in Juul) for enabling Juul to expand its market almost threefold—when Altria had agreed to do essentially the opposite. The FDA shocked tobacco companies by threatening to take e-cigarettes off the market if they couldn’t prove in 60 days that they could take the products out of minors’ hands. It would seem that this is not the case even after Juul and Altria have designed detailed, deceptively convincing plans to accomplish this, which include an ad campaign designed to heavily discourage teenage use. But given Juul’s incredibly high sales, which only continue to climb, it seems that they are taking advantage of the leverage that comes with low awareness about nicotine’s catastrophic effects.

Juul’s addictive component is nicotine, which has been proven time and time again to be incredibly harmful to the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine use leads to abnormal development of the brain’s synapses, which impact learning. It’s especially detrimental to the developing teen brain, which learns skills much faster than adults. It may over time also have significant impacts on one’s life. E-cigarette smoke also contains trace amounts of cancerous substances, and scientists aren’t entirely sure of the adverse effects of vaping itself. For all we know, Juuling could have many more disastrous effects than previously realized. We must also keep in mind that Juul, like most other corporations, probably doesn’t have our best interests in heart. Making profits is its utmost priority.

The FDA is correct in trying to stop teen Juuling, but it still has a very long way to go. Even if it takes Juuls off the market entirely, teens will still be able to obtain them on the Internet and from much shadier and riskier sources. Juul claims to help tens of millions of smokers quit cigarettes and transition into a much safer device (though it’s still far from safe) and a tobacco-free life. We shouldn’t doubt their claims. Juul’s $10 million-ad campaign is titled “Make the Switch,” targeting former smokers only and making sure to let any visitor know that by blaring it across their website. An age verification on the website prohibits anyone younger than 21 years from even making an account and receiving newsletters. That means any adult can buy Juul products. That seems good at first glance, but teens can just buy Juuls from adults, and there’d be almost no way the government could know. This fact holds true for any other product that’s only partially contraband, but teens using Juuls far more than anything else because they are unaware of their dire long-term consequences.

It would be incredibly expensive, time-consuming, intrusive, and probably unnecessary for the FDA to track down every single Juul store and enforce strict regulations on sales. Such is the addictive power of nicotine. But what has been proven to be effective—in fighting everything from obesity to cigarettes to STDs—is education. If more people learned about the negative effects of the Juul, its use would almost certainly drop dramatically. Don’t force people to make decisions—give them knowledge, and let them choose for themselves. That isn’t to say that the FDA’s approach to controlling the Juul is entirely wrong. It should still regulate the Juul more tightly, but that will not ultimately bring us to the goal of rooting out Juuling in 3.48 million teens. Education will.

Granted, the Juul is a relatively new product; as a result, schools haven’t had very much time to address the problem. Education is a long-term strategy, but it almost always works. It doesn’t take up a substantial amount of time or effort to put up ads in public spaces, especially in dense cities like our own where many people are likely to see them. The very same social media “influencers” that Juul utilizes so often should also be sure to mention that it is addictive and contains harmful chemicals. Many teens start Juuling because they think it’s nothing more than water vapor. They also think that nicotine doesn’t have harmful effects on their minds. And it isn’t their fault that they don’t know. We need to make sure from this point on that they do.