Addicted to Juuling

Despite FDA crackdown, company bears responsibility for hooking teens on nicotine


Annalise Freimarck, Managing Editor

You’ve all seen it. While the teacher is not looking, a student needing a fix takes out a Juul discreetly hidden in their sweatshirt sleeve, taking a hit or two in class.

We look at each other like we have a secret inside joke and snicker quietly to ourselves, knowing that the teacher will never notice the odorless and easily hidden vapor from e-cigarettes.

Juul is the most popular e-cigarette brand that uses nicotine salts from tobacco leaves in their products. Users click a button on these devices that look similar to USB drives to vaporize the nicotine inside to be inhaled.

While it may seem comical to watch someone take a hit of the popular replacement for cigarettes in class, the Juul company is getting kids like these addicted to nicotine while glazing over the fact that 20.8 percent of high schoolers in the U.S. use their products, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Just from 2017 to 2018 alone, teenage Juul use went up an astonishing 78 percent. They are choosing to combat this with petty regulations and rules that are easy to get around in order avoid actual responsibility for the harm that they’ve caused to the youth and will cause as long as “juuling” remains popular.

Due to its popularity, Juul has spurred a decline in cigarette use, with only 10.8 percent of teenagers using cigarettes in 2016, versus 36.4 percent in 1997. However, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, e-cigarette users are more likely to use other nicotine products, such as cigarettes, coined a gateway substance. In fact, 40 percent of  young adults that have used e-cigarettes have also smoked cigarettes.

A Juul pod is equivalent to about 20 regular cigarettes and around 200 puffs, making it especially dangerous, according to the National Youth Tobacco survey, because over 3 million minors are using Juul products. These puts young people at risk of further health problems, such as lung cancer.

Recently, Juul came under fire after an FDA investigation examined whether the company was targeting teenagers, which would be illegal considering that it’s illegal to sell to anyone under 21 years.

With every click on the Juul website, a pop-up disclaimer warns consumers that they have to be 21 or older to purchase. A banner at the top of the website warns that nicotine is an addictive drug.

Following the investigation, Juul stopped selling the flavors that traditionally appeal to a younger market, such as mango and creme, in retail stores, and instead only sell mint, menthol and tobacco flavors.

According to a Juul executive, the website will also require a photo ID to buy the products, and limit each purchase to 15 pods. This can also be circumvented, as fake IDs can be forged.

In addition, Juul Labs deleted its Instagram and Facebook accounts that promoted the flavored pods. The company is also asking other social media giants such as Snapchat and Twitter to help them police the ads that teens see.

While all of these regulations may help inhibit teenagers from getting the products, Juul has already addicted many teens to its nicotine-infused products.The company is avoiding responsibility for teenage addiction by coming up with ineffective and too little, too late regulations, which are just to get the FDA off its back.  After all, they are a company that wants a profit, not a closure.

Juul Labs, regardless of the new regulations, is not taking enough responsibility for the harm it’s caused in teenagers, and continues to abet teenage addiction with a sad excuse for regulation.