Shaw: JUUL usage is foolish considering health concerns

JUUL usage has become a nationwide trend for young adults and teenagers. But the subtle consequences aren't worth the Snapchat story.

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Shaw: JUUL usage is foolish considering health concerns

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Lily Smith

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Lily Smith

Lily Smith

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Nichole Shaw, Opinion Columnist

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It’s no secret that JUUL has become the single most successful e-cigarette on the market; its popularity has skyrocketed since its release in 2015. We even see JUULs being used right here on our campus, despite the UI’s zero-tolerance policy of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

According to a UI Student Health & Wellness 2018 report, e-cigarette use increased by a substantial 25 percent since 2016 while all other forms of tobacco use decreased. This is because the perceived risk of e-cigarettes was low and not on the radar of most students. This spike in use led to the recent creation of an e-cigarette advisory group by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Truth Initiative reports that 63 percent of consumers don’t know that JUULs contain nicotine. That is alarming. That more than half of JUUL consumers don’t know what they are putting into their bodies shows a lack of understanding about the true impact and consequences that JUULs can have.

They contain nicotine salt from leaf tobacco in every fun-flavored pod, and the e-cigarette is based on an IT design aimed to resemble a similar experience to smoking a real cigarette. The absorbed nicotine level after each hit is significantly higher than with a regular cigarette, according to studies done by Jeffrey Willett, the vice president of Schroeder Institute.

Willett found “the amount of nicotine in one JUUL cartridge is roughly equal to a pack of cigarettes.” It is my impression from social media and personal contacts that most believe JUULs are not significantly harmful to a person’s health or wellness because the e-cigarette doesn’t contain any carcinogenic substances. However, use is harmful.

JUUL’s accessibility enables an easy slip into serious nicotine addiction, especially for those under 25 whose brains are still developing. “For a brain to get that much nicotine at once is scary,” said Stephanie Beecher, UI Student Health & Wellness senior behavioral health consultant.

Nicotine addiction changes the brain chemically and hinders development while it slows a lot of processes down, Beecher said. “When you add in all the potential unknowns, that’s scary,” she said about the unknown long-term effects of JUUL use.

The amount of ignorance and naïveté surrounding JUUL use is concerning. If you don’t know what you’re putting into your body, you shouldn’t consume it.

Beecher, who oversees the outreach and consultation for tobacco cessation, said the use of e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking is ineffective and not a recognized method. This is in part because e-cigarettes allow high nicotine intake, lack of regulation, and easy accessibility.

Marketing has shown e-cigarettes and the tobacco industry specifically target a younger consumer audience.“Adding flavoring [diacetyl] to e-cigarettes appeals to younger kids,” Beecher said. “Some of those flavors, when you heat them, are actually dangerous and can cause lung issues [because when you heat an element, you’re changing the chemical structure].”

Beecher also made it clear that the so-called “juice” in a JUUL pod is not water  vapor but actually aerosol, a common misconception when vaping.

There are a number of different reasons that people choose to use e-cigarettes. It could be peer pressure starting in high school and carried on through college. It could also be some sort of an escape from the high stress of taxing academics. I reached out to numerous students for comment. All declined.

We were supposed to be the generation to end smoking and nicotine addiction. Now, we’ll be known as the generation that sparked even more serious nicotine addiction and potential lung diseases. Is the flavor of a JUUL pod and how the smoke looked in our camera lens on Snapchat really worth it?