KMC Crusade

New nicotine pens become ‘hidden JUULs’

Kinta Kail, co-EIC

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Taking up the length of a palm, the JUUL has become a common medium for vaping among teenagers. The e-cigarette is able to be concealed in a fist, making it convenient to hide in class. photo
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Kapaun Mt. Carmel senior *Clifford Ortega prepares for a typical school day. He puts on his khaki pants and button-up shirt, packs his textbooks, pens and binders. He also remembers to put his vape pen in his pocket.
In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 16 percent of high school students vaped in 2015, which adds up to 2.39 million teenagers. The trend of teenagers owning a JUUL is prevalent, Ortega said, who began using a JUUL in November.
“There was just a lot of people doing it,” Ortega said. “I’d go to parties, and everyone was doing it so I thought I should just get one because I get a good buzz from it.”
Senior *Judith McCarthy said she sees approximately five people using a JUUL at KMC per week.
“I don’t see them do it in class as much as I do around the school when no teachers are around,” McCarthy said. “One time someone was JUULing in the bathroom and dropped her JUUL in the toilet. They still tried to use it and drank toilet water.”
Science teacher Jo Mittman said she remembers when KMC students were hooked on cigarettes.
“All of the cool movie stars smoked, and it was considered the cool trend,” Mittman said. “When I first started teaching here, there were a lot of kids who smoked here. A lot. It was also when we had it to where any block could be a free period, and the seniors would leave during their free period. When they would come back in, they would just reek of cigarette smoke. It was nuts. Within five years of working here, no one really smoked anymore. It was strange how that mentality turned around so quickly.”
The first modern e-cigarette, created in 2003, was called a mini, or a “cigalike” which it got its nickname from mimicking the feel and shape of smoking tobacco cigarettes. As e-cigarettes grew more popular, a higher demand grew for devices with longer battery life, stronger vapor production and increased control. Thus, the vape pen was created, and a 2014 survey by the CDC revealed that more than 9 million adults vape on a regular basis. According to NPR, a new and much more convenient vape pen has now found its way to teenagers—the JUUL.
According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, just 1.37 million teenagers smoke cigarettes, nearly 1 million less than those who vape. KMC senior *Gloria Warner said that in today’s society, using a JUUL is more socially acceptable than a cigarette.
“Nowadays, when you go to a party, everyone has a JUUL,” Warner said. “But, if someone whips out a cig, it’s ‘trashy’ and people look at you with disgust. Especially if a girl does it, then people automatically assume that she is trashy. But when people see you JUULing, they’re like ‘Oh that’s cool, they JUUL.’”
One reason that JUUL and vape pens are so popular among teens is they can be used indoors without attracting attention or creating a stench, and Warner agrees.
“It definitely smells better than a regular cigarette,” Warner said. “Cigarettes cling to you and if you come back inside from just smoking one, everyone knows you smoked. If smoke your JUUL, all you get is the smell of mint or mango or whatever it is. It’s much more discreet, and it tastes better, too. No one wants to smell like an ashtray.”
Since the flavoring is so appealing to teens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned most flavored cigarettes for this reason; however, the agency has not banned flavored vapes.
“We don’t know what we’re doing to teenagers with that,” Mittman said. “A lot of kids don’t realize that nicotine feeds its own addiction. As you get nicotine in you, then your brain cells start to have more nicotine receptors on them so that’s why people have to have more and more nicotine to get the effects. You gain those receptors, and when they’re not activated your brain says, ‘I need more nicotine.’”
The FDA extended its regulatory authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes in 2016. Mittman said it is interesting how the FDA has this law, but they do not tell society what is in e-cigarettes.
“They’re [e-cigarettes] still a nicotine-delivery device by trade,” Mittman said. “That is how they were marketed. ‘Here’s nicotine, but you won’t get cancer.’ Well, we don’t know that because we don’t know what else they stuck in there because, by law, they get to keep that secret. The first e-cigarettes weren’t really discreet, but now they’ve made them so small. When I first saw one after I googled it, I was like ‘holy crap, that looks exactly like a USB.’ I’m sure the marketers are doing that on purpose so kids can hide it in something.”
Mittman said there needs to be a more accurate measurement of what is in each JUUL pod. Each pod includes ingredients such as glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavor, nicotine and benzoic acid, according to juulvapor.com; however, there is not an exact amount of each ingredient in each pod.
“No one really asks the question of ‘what happens when the nicotine is vaporized at that particular temperature?’” Mittman said. “We don’t even really know how much nicotine is the pods or anything. It might say 5 percent, but by what—weight, volume? It would be better for it to have a direct measurement of how many milligrams of nicotine you have inhaled.”
Senior *Bruce Larson said he does not believe smoking or vaping will always be a part of his life, but has made it a part of his high school lifestyle.
“My parents freaking hate it, and we both know what it’s doing to my lungs,” Larson said. “I am going to give it up eventually, even though I know every smoker says that. It is just a high school thing, and it is only a social act.

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New nicotine pens become ‘hidden JUULs’