The Juul Epidemic
Detailing the rise of e-cigarette usage in North America
Ruslan Nicole CONTRIBUTOR
Photo: Juul and Juul pods. TRUTH INITIATIVE
The usage of vape products of all kinds have soared this year. Children, preteens, and adults of all ages are being exposed to concentrated nicotine, and other less known chemicals. One such vape product, the Juul, which looks to many like a USB drive, is currently under investigation by America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for allegedly marketing their product to children.
So, what are the consequences of this? The long-term effects of the entire Juul epidemic have yet to be seen.
Is vaping safe?
To decide whether or not vaping is safe, we must first understand how the vape is created. The small devices, whether they are Juul products or slightly larger vape mod boxes, ultimately function by producing a water vapour to be inhaled. The battery-powered devices have an element that heats a liquid containing nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Now, to give some context in comparison to the average strength of cigarettes on the market, a Juul cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. Estimates vary, but one Juul cartridge is said to amount to 200 “hits” of vapour. According to a University of California, San Francisco, study, the vapour that comes out of these products isn’t as harmless as it seems. Researchers found that the vapour from vapes “contain some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes.”
The response to the question commonly asked about the usage of e-cigarettes and other related products regarding the safety and health consequences as a consumer, is that no, these products are not risk-free. Although studies have shown that vape products are significantly less harmful to overall health than cigarettes, it remains to be seen what the longer term health consequences of e-cigarettes are.
Is this trend here to stay?
The original point of the vape industry was simply for smokers who wanted a tool that would help them quit in the long run. However, it didn’t take long for the novelty of vapes to spread to people that otherwise wouldn’t have smoked any kind of nicotine product in the first place. When the companies that create these products are allowed the freedom to make an addictive product with minimal regulation, it creates a problem. Much like people who start smoking cigarettes in high school, many of whom pick up the habit under social and peer pressure, vaping may always appeal to certain ages as a form of entertainment. For many young vape users, the whole excitement factor is being able to breathe out the vapor in clouds while doing tricks with it. When companies are able to market these products to appeal to the fun side of vaping, such as having bigger clouds or more candy-like flavours, vaping will remain an issue with the high-school-aged users.
It is definitely a safer alternative to cigarettes, but what is up with people who don’t smoke cigarettes getting addicted to nicotine through vapes? Why do we have such addictive personalities?
Suggesting that it is addictive personalities that are the issue with vape products is misleading. The vape product, specifically nicotine vapes, were designed for one purpose: to give users a hit of nicotine, which in turn stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, creating the head rush or the ‘nic high.’ One could argue that the products are designed around our brain chemistry in order to maximize stimulation, and in effect, making our brains crave each rush of dopamine. So, it becomes a question of whether our personalities are that which create the addiction to vapes, or the fact that the producers of these e-cigs enhance the addictive properties of their products in order to maximize consumption.
Are we using vapes to fit in with the masses or is it stress relief at the touch of a button that is safer than a drag of a cigarette?
The simple answer to this is, “Both.” The Juul epidemic can be attributed to social users, people who are addicted to the dopamine hit in their brain (stress release, high, head rush), and everyone in between. Although the Juul problem is continually growing around the world, especially in the high school crowd, governments are starting to develop regulations for vape companies similar to those which cigarettes fall under. The goal being to discourage use in the younger population, and educate users on the short and longer term health issues that can be caused by vape consumption.