The Record

The Rise Of Juuling

Megha Nelivigi, Staff Writer

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“There are some people that if you see them in the bathroom, you sort of know why they’re there, or some people you see leaving class that you know why they’re leaving,” Christina* (12) said, discussing students Juuling at the school. Over the past year and a half or so, the popularity of the Juul, an e-cigarette, has skyrocketed among teenagers. 

Although Juuls, which deliver vaporized nicotine to the user, are marketed towards adults as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, they have found their way into the hands of many high schoolers at the school. Whether it is in the bathrooms, in the Senior Study Room, or hidden in students’ sleeves, Christina said, it is not uncommon to see students Juuling. 

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2016, 11.3 percent of high school students are e-cigarette users, although the Juul itself has increased in popularity in recent years. As of March 2018, Nielsen data revealed that the Juul made up more than 50% of all e-cigarette retail market sales, although the Juul was only released in 2015. 

SCHOOL RESPONSE 

“The whole community is talking about and very concerned about the Juul,” Health teacher Amy Mojica said. 

The administration has taken precautionary measures due to concerns over its growing popularity within the student body. At a recent faculty meeting, one of the topics was the prevalence of Juuling on campus, Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein said. Levenstein brought a number of Juuls to the meeting, had teachers pass them around, and played a PSA Mojica sent to her. 

The conversation stemmed from teachers either catching students Juuling, finding Juuls and thinking they were flash drives, or from reports students have shared with their teachers and advisers. 

“We’re doing our very best to increase the conversations about these products on campus with the confidence of knowing that our Counseling and Guidance Department in the Upper Division is capable of providing support and/or information to any student looking to either avoid or stop using a vape pen or Juul,” Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly said in an email.

If and when students are caught with e-cigarettes, similar to if they are caught with drugs or alcohol, there are serious disciplinary consequences, Levenstein said. Typically, the consequence is suspension, but if it happens a second time, it could potentially lead to expulsion, Levenstein said. 

Since the 2015-2016 school year, the Family Handbook states that the possession and use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices on campus is not allowed. The school is currently exploring hosting programs for parents, hopefully through a non-profit which specializes in addiction education, Levenstein said. The school also plans to incorporate conversations about Juuling into the Horace Mann Orientation (HMO) curriculum. 

However, if students are not caught but rather go to the guidance office voluntarily to discuss the issue or seek help, no disciplinary action is taken, UD Director of Counseling and Guidance Dr. Daniel Rothstein said. In this situation, the guidance counselors would assist students in cutting down their usage or seeking outside help, as is the case with any other substance, he said. 

BEGINNING TO JUUL 

While many students opt out of using Juuls and illegal substances altogether, others are attracted to the Juul for a number of reasons. Ted* (11), who has owned a Juul for around eight months, began Juuling after trying his friend’s and deciding to buy his own, a pattern reported by many other students who Juul. 

Fred* (9), for instance, tried the Juul of an older friend who played on the same sports team. Although he threw out his personal Juul, Fred still juuls socially. Other students shared a similar experience. “I don’t use my Juul regularly at home,” Bob* (11) said. “It’s definitely mostly a social thing.” 

Sally* (11) began using a Juul around the beginning of her sophomore year because others around her were doing it, she said. 

“If you’re at a party, you can see a lot of people Juuling,” Bob said. 

Many other students reported using Juuls primarily in the company of others. Of 114 students who were asked where they use the Juul, 98 students reported using it socially, while 38 use it at home and only 18 claim to use it at school. 

“It’s the kind of thing that if you do it, you fit in,” Ted said. “I think the ‘headrush’ craze is kind of a fluke– some people get it, some people don’t– it doesn’t matter that much, but more people just do it because their friends do it.” The “headrush” is the sudden feeling of lightheadedness or euphoria that nicotine users often experience. 

Other students, however, reported that their Juul habits are not limited to social settings. When she first purchased a Juul, Mary* (11) used it infrequently and without inhaling the vapor– users must allow the vapor to settle in their lungs to experience a headrush– but after a couple of months she began to use the Juul much more often. Mary resists using the Juul at school but uses it nearly daily at home and even brings it on vacation. 

REASONS 

Other than using the Juul just to fit in, some of the most common reasons for the Juul’s popularity in high schools include its convenience, accessibility, sleek look, trendiness on social media, and because using it “looks cool and it’s badass,” Mary said. 

Some students reported using Juuls as a stress reliever, while others said they Juul out of boredom or like to have the Juul as a “social ‘coolness’ identifier.” 

People began using Juuls more, Mary believes, after seeing not only celebrities, but their own friends posting about them, “because it has some aesthetic appeal,” she said. 

Patrick* (10) believes the way the Juul is marketed contributes to its popularity. “I think it starts with advertisements,” he said, and he believes it is specifically marketed to teenagers. 

Its unique design also appeals to many students. “They’re concealable and super easy to use, and they also don’t seem bad for you compared to smoking something else– they seem harmless,” Frank* (12) said. 

HARMS 

But they are not, in fact, harmless, Mojica said. “I think people believe that cigarettes are bad because of the smoke, but they’re also bad because of nicotine. Nicotine is a poison– it’s actually a pesticide– and it’s not healthy for people, so e-cigarettes are still dangerous,” she said. 

According to Mojica, nicotine can have a number of negative effects. Apart from being an extremely addictive substance, nicotine is a stimulant, so it increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure, and can sometimes make people anxious. 

In the long-term, nicotine increases the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and can damage your respiratory and vascular systems. It also affects your kidneys and liver, where nicotine is filtered, she said. 

The Juul, is however, less harmful than cigarettes in some ways, which is why some students feel that using Juuls is not as detrimental. According to scientificamerican.com, some psychologists and tobacco-addiction specialists have come to the consensus that “smoking is the killer, not nicotine.” 

However, allowing foreign substances in the body could be quite dangerous, Psychologist Dr. Ian Pervil said. According to cbsnews.com, a study done by the NYU School of Medicine showed that the vapor from e-cigarettes may potentially contribute to lung and bladder cancer, as well as heart disease. 

Although the company claims its Juuls are marketed for adults trying to quit smoking cigarettes, students should also be aware that “they’re being manipulated and targeted,” Pervil said. Companies are looking for trends in what teenagers find compelling, and then market products that appeal directly to those trends, whether that is in terms of flavors, the way the Juul looks, the fact that it is technologically savvy, or anything else, he said. 

Because vaping only just broke into the US in the mid-2000s, “we just don’t know, long-term, how severe vaping is,” Mojica said. “People who are using it now are the guinea pigs.” 

Instead of filling Juuls with oils or other liquids, users insert “pods” which contain flavored nicotine and come in options ranging from mango to mint. According to the National Institutes of Health, a Juul pod is four times more potent, in terms of nicotine, than a pack of cigarettes. 

Most students who use the Juul claimed they could go for long periods of time without using it and thus are not addicted, but others, including 12 respondents to the survey, do believe that they are or were addicted to nicotine. 

“There are a few of my friends that are really addicted,” Patrick, an infrequent user, said. “At that point, it’s like a lifestyle– they don’t even do it for the feeling, they just do it and don’t even think about doing it. It’s like a really bad habit.” 

“I guess I was addicted at one point,” Sally said, which is why she has not used a Juul in over three months. “I still sometimes struggle with quitting…it feels like withdrawal from an actual addiction and sometimes I want to go back to it because everyone else is doing it, but the side effects after a while turned me off,” she said. 

Fred stopped using the Juul as frequently because of his asthma and because it affected the way he performed in sports, he said. 

Mary continues to Juul despite the effects, and claims that the only negative she has experienced is a slightly upset stomach, she said. Ted also reported only experiencing a sore throat when he wakes up every so often, he said. 

Overwhelming evidence does, however, suggest that nicotine is addictive, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “You’re fighting an uphill battle against something your brain chemistry has a proclivity toward wanting you to do again,” he said. 

Because relatively very few of the students who reported they Juul believe they are addicted, Pervil does “wonder if people think that they’re not addicted because it’s frankly easier to do than smoking,” he said, because Juul users do not need to change environments, use a lighter, or interfere as much with other people. “You can do it so quickly and easily, it doesn’t feel like you’re addicted to it,” he said. 

Despite the statistics, many students are either unaware of the consequences or continue to Juul despite them. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 66% of teenagers believe e-cigarettes contain only flavoring. 

“The consequences of Juuling aren’t bad enough to want to stop doing it,” Mary said. 

Ted continues to Juul even with the consequences because “doing it gives you something to fill your time with,” he said. 

Regardless of students’ attitudes on Juuling, for Levenstein, this is just the latest iteration of an age-old problem. 

“It is in the nature of an adolescent to want to come right up close to where the rules are and see what they can get away with, and that’s not new,” Levenstein said. “This is the latest way to test that limit, but this is part of the job description of a teenager. We’re used to it, we understand it, but we do have to hold the line on what the rules are.” 

*Any name with an asterisk represents a student granted anonymity 

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The Rise Of Juuling