The JUULing Crisis in American High Schools

October 5, 2018

 

Since 2015, the e-cigarettes made by JUUL have quickly spread their way through the high schools of America, according to major publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times. Originally birthed in San Francisco, California, JUUL quickly became a popular and dangerous addictive product. However, the greater issue in the company is arguably that the product isn’t going to their intended audience: ex-smokers who still have nicotine cravings, but don’t want to inhale other toxic chemicals in cigarettes. Instead, the e-cigarettes is going into the hands of teenagers.

A former senior manager told The New York Times that early on in the existence of JUUL’s e-cigarettes, the company was aware of the excess of teenage users. It isn’t very hard to find this out for yourself, as social media is littered with pictures and videos of teenagers and young adults using the product. Since JUULs are widely accessible to young people, parents are concerned the marketing is trying to target minors. There are numerous JUUL ads that show young people “JUULing,” and even though the models are not minors, the ads glamorize a product intended for adults who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes. The company stopped using these young models around the beginning of 2017, but its advertisements still seem like they are targeted towards minors. Part of the massive appeal of JUUL is the flavors. From mango and creme brulee to tobacco and mint, JUUL has found massive success in people buying their fun and unique flavors. The flashy appeal of these names is often what starts some teenagers’ nicotine addictions, as 63% percent of JUUL’s teenage and young adult customers don’t understand that these e-cigarettes always have nicotine, according to a survey conducted by Truth Initiative, a nonprofit that is “dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.”

Not only does JUUL know that many teenagers have access to their product, and that it has them hooked on nicotine, but they also know that they are the target of lots of hate from parents, children, and even health or drug experts like Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, who said he was worried about the amount of nicotine the JUUL provides, and that it is so easy to hide one. So why not just play it safe and get rid of the flashy marketing, engaging flavors, and high levels of nicotine (which are about the same as a pack of cigarettes)? Well, JUUL sort of has. They recently changed the names of the flavors crème brûlée, fruit medley, and cool cucumber to Creme, Fruit, and Cucumber in an attempt at simplifying, and taking away the childish appeal of these flavors. They also added 3% (as opposed to their normal 5%) nicotine versions of the “JUULpods” Virginia Tobacco and Mint. However, the flavors popular among young people, like Mango and Cucumber, still strangley remain at 5%.

On the other hand, it would be unfair to say JUUL isn’t at all making an effort to try to get kids to stop using their e-cigarette. All over their website, they make sure to think about their word choice. For example, one of the first things on their website says their mission: “Improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers.” One of the cofounders, James Monsees, said selling JUULs to children is “antithetical to the company’s mission.” However, words won’t stop an epidemic and so far even though JUUL has set aside large amounts of money to stop minors from using their products, there are no concrete steps that they have yet taken to solve this problem. This issue is relevant to all children nearing adolescence, even if you don’t think that you’re the type of kid to JUUL. It’s unfair to expect teenagers to never come into contact with a JUUL if they are receiving pressure from both their peers and a massive company to just try it out. The harmless guise of “Mango” or “Creme” may be enough to make it seem like it’s just a harmless toy, but examples of kids becoming addicted to nicotine show otherwise.

 

Sources:

New York Times

Juul

Washington Post

Truth Initiative

 

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