Effects of the Juul E-Cig: The Modern Nicotine Addiction

The modern nicotine addiction is packed in a sleek gray casing and found everywhere on college campuses. Small enough to slide into your sleeve, and seemingly harmless, this device is has been raved about all over social media and is enjoyed recreationally by most teenagers. Yet, none of us know much about it. You guessed it. This device is known as a Juul.

We have enough information regarding the serious and deadly effects of tobacco, that anyone would condemn the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and its various other forms. We have all had relatives who have suffered from a nicotine addiction, and heartbreakingly, a lot of us have had close friends or family members who have passed away from emphysema or lung cancer. We have all learned about the dark sides of the tobacco industry, and how their ads specifically preyed on the younger generation in order to create a lasting addiction and profit. So, how does the nicotine addiction still exist? The answer lies with tobacco companies’ continuing goal in targeting teenagers and young adults, resulting in an addiction to new vape technology such as Juuls, Suorin Drops and Box Mods.

How has the younger generation been targeted in the past, and even presently?

 A study was done in 1991 investigating brand logo recognition by Children aged 3 to 6 years found that about 30 percent of 3-year-old children correctly matched Old Joe with a picture of a cigarette compared with 91.3 percent of 6-year-old children. The World Health Organization created an international treaty in 2003 aimed to prevent tobacco companies’ marketing to grow in power in developing countries. Yet, a newer study conducted in 2013 found that in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia 68 percent among the 2,400 5 and 6-year-old’s interviewed identified at least one tobacco logo.

How does this apply to our generation?

Tobacco marketing’s most recent ploy has taken college campuses by storm with its newest and most popular product, the Juul. PAX labs started marketing for their new electronic cigarette in early 2015 and claimed that they never targeted teenagers specifically in their marketing campaigns. Only in June of 2018 did PAX switch its models to people over 35 who switched from cigarettes to Juul. The Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating Juul Labs marketing practices in April of 2018.

People who vape, or use a form of e-cigarette, inhale a significantly lower amount of toxins than those who smoke regular cigarettes. The nicotine intake from vaping is not much of a concern for adults but is a serious health issue for teenagers because their brains are still developing. A study conducted in 2017 found that “among youth who had never smoked a cigarette by 12th grade, baseline, recent vapers were more than 4 times more likely to report past-year cigarette smoking at follow-up, even among youth who reported the highest possible level of perceived risk for cigarette smoking at baseline.”

So, how bad is it?

The Juul contains roughly twice the concentration as cigarettes and other vape pens. Nicotine affects the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls emotion, decision making, and regulates impulses. Nicotine has a different effect on the developing brain, in fact, the brain doesn’t finish developing until about age 25. These effects are similar to those of marijuana and alcohol. Chadi’s study in 2007 found that prefrontal network function in young adults was significantly reduced in smokers in comparison to nonsmokers, and the duration of smoking (measured in years) directly relates to the diminished activity. The changes in the brain affect sensitivity to other drugs and increase impulsivity.

Nicotine is terribly addictive, and only about 85% of people who try to quit on their own end up relapsing. In fact, cigarette smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing about five hundred thousand people a year. A recent study by a Georgetown oncology professor found that 6.6 million lives would be saved if we switched 10 percent of American smokers to e-cigarettes every year in the next ten years.

So, is the Juul helpful or harmful?

The answer is: It’s complicated.

According to the majority of research, Juuling is a great alternative for adults, over the age of 25, who need help to quit smoking cigarettes. But, for teenagers and young adults, the Juul could create a lasting addiction that damages their brain functioning and could possibly lead to an addiction to cigarettes.

David Abrams, a professor at N.Y.U.’s College of Global Public Health, argues that Juuls “change your heart rate a little bit. There’s some vasoconstriction, some possible effects on blood pressure. E-cigarettes are not harmless. But I think long-term use of nicotine, if decoupled from the toxins in cigarette smoke, would probably be much safer than the heavy long-term use of alcohol and marijuana.” So, Juuls could help teenagers and young adults end their addiction to cigarettes, or other harmful substances.

Yet, other scholars still argue that research has shown an addiction to vaping is likely to lead to cigarette use in the future. Juuling and other forms of vaping are all such new forms of technology that we still have not learned the extent of their social and physical effects. We only know as far as the short-term effects, and studies conducting research on the long-term effects are currently underway.

In the meantime, be careful to be completely honest with yourself and ask what you are truly putting in your body, and whether or not it’s worth it. Are you Juuling because you like it? Or because you want to fit into the endless streams of Instagram posts and Snapchats of the latest transient trend?