Last semester, I was waiting for class to start in one of Parlin’s white-tiled rooms when my classmates burst into a chorus of scoffing laughs and groans. A student was hunched over his desk, thin trails of vapor wreathing his head.
Juuling is a familiar sight to anyone who's spent more than two minutes in West Campus or bothers to look up from their phones on the Drag. Aside from singling out the edgier students, the ubiquity of Juuls on campus suggests a cultural shift we should all welcome with relief. Even if you consider Juul users obnoxious, their behavior at least has a chance to expose smokers to a safer alternative.
The American vaporizer market is expanding rapidly. Wells Fargo analysts project the vapor industry will reach $5.5 billion in sales in 2018, and the latest data shows 68 percent of this market belonging to Juul.
Juul’s design is unique for e-cigarettes — the flat, slender exterior resembles a flash drive with a tiny green light — and the cost is significantly lower than their traditional counterparts. The vaporizer retails for $34.99. A single four-pack of flavored cartridges called “pods” costs $15.99.
Each five percent strength pod contains 40 milligrams of nicotine — as much nicotine as two packs of cigarettes. This high potency was originally intended to help America’s 40 million cigarette smokers kick their habit. A single pack of Marlboro Red costs an average of $7 for half of the nicotine of a single pod and a host of harmful carcinogens such as tar and carbon monoxide.
For theater studies senior Jacob Basquez, a long-time cigarette smoker, the negative image surrounding Juul users is a major deterrent.
“My whole thing with it is that … there’s a frat boy stigma, almost a poser feeling to the whole idea,” Basquez said.
Basquez said he believes cigarettes are more dangerous, but that he would never consider switching to Juuls.
Others, however, have found Juul useful in quitting cigarettes. Rhetoric and writing senior Dustin Miner made the switch from tobacco-based products to Juul two years ago.
“Because I Juul every day, I couldn’t tell you if I’m more irritable and less productive when I don’t use it, but I will say… that I haven’t craved cigarettes since I started,” Miner said.
As of now, nicotine addiction is the only established negative health consequence of vaping. It’s also the impetus behind the FDA’s regulatory crackdown on 1,300 vaporizer retailers, including Juul. Public health agencies have expressed concern over the effects of inhaling heated e-liquid chemicals.
Although some e-juices contain diacetyl, an organic compound linked to “popcorn lung,” Juul pods do not use these chemicals. In addition, diacetyl has been detected in cigarette smoke at a level hundreds of times greater than e-cigarettes.
“It’s trendy, so older generations are upset when in reality kids have always wanted cigarettes, dip (and) alcohol,” Miner said. “The contemporary ‘Marlboro man’ is the kid that vapes.”
Unfortunately, this kid is often tied to an image of boisterous wannabes: students who crave the pleasure of nicotine delivery without the risk. On campus, however, vaping students are walking endorsements to those looking for a way to quit cigarettes. The Juul is adapted for maximum efficiency and pleasure, where students can get their fix for half the cost and carcinogens.
David is a rhetoric and writing sophomore from Allen.