By Camille Delagrave-Ajduk
It is no surprise that pop music consistently morphs, fashion trends evolve, and social norms shift at an ever-increasing rate. Albeit being largely overlooked, the drug industry is far from being spared of our ever-changing habits. Perhaps overshadowing the recent legalization of weed, “Juuling" has become the trendy thing to do (or smoke) since the end of 2017.
The JUUL is a small vaporizer, or e-cigarette, that consists of a USB key-looking body containing a battery and refillable cartridges or “pods” which can be found in multiple flavours. These pods contain a solution made up of nicotine salts, glycerol, propylene glycol, benzoic acid and flavouring. JUULs are meant to help reduce smoking habits, to encourage the reusability of smoking apparatus, and to provide a slightly healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Many people still remain in the dark about the JUUL, yet, according to Nielsen data, the “JUUL” as a company is currently worth over 38 billion USD and possesses a staggering majority of the e-cigarette market. Its recent growth has been exponential, and the JUUL is currently the most popular vaporizer out there, despite not being sold worldwide due to it containing large amounts of nicotine.
This popularity, however, is common knowledge for any party-going student. One of the backlashes the vaporizer has received is that it is advertised and marketed towards a more vulnerable public: teenagers and young adults. Despite the denial of these claims, it cannot be ignored that the sleek, portable, and technological aspects of the vaporizer make it particularly attractive for the Instagram generation. Indeed, much of its spread in popularity is due to its omnipresence on social media and its aesthetics that conjure impressions of wealth and modernity. The advertisements for JUULs are currently under federal investigation in the United States in order to establish if they were meant to lure teenagers into consuming the product. Many claim that, for a younger consumer, it can serve as a “gateway drug” for further consumption of nicotine products, although research has yet to confirm this correlation.
While JUULs may seem like a healthier, trendier, and more socially acceptable alternative to smoking, their negative effects cannot be neglected. The product may have less ingredients than your traditional cigarettes, which contain close to 7000 chemicals, but the JUUL’s ingredients are just as potent. Long gone are the myths that vaping pens are much healthier than traditional smoking products. As explained by John Hopkins’ faculty of medicine, vaping pens often contain more nicotine than traditional cigarettes and their chemicals have yet to be studied. As vaping products contains an overwhelming amount of nicotine, they can lead to addiction and to strong withdrawal symptoms similar to those caused by regular cigarettes. The presence of nicotine also means that e-cigarettes impact the developing brain, growth, and the cardiovascular system. There has been a report that the chemicals present in JUULs have caused an allergic reaction in the lungs, but the product is too recent for substantial research to have been done on the long term effects of “juuling” and vaping.
The JUUL might’ve been meant to be a slightly “healthier” version of the cigarette for an audience that may want to reduce its smoking habits, yet its reception has ensued the complete opposite. The rise of the JUUL brings into question how health officials and the tobacco industry can prevent teenagers and young adults from getting hooked to various drugs, especially in this digital age where drugs are increasingly promoted online. Within months, the JUUL has become a staple in youth culture, mostly due to its presence on social media and the domino effect that followed. The intertwining of drugs and social media will indeed be an important issue these next few years, yet how much can governments and companies do in order to prevent teens from being teens?