JUUL poses significant threat to adolescents

Caroline Casey and Cece Brown

It is no doubt that pretty much every high schooler has heard of, come into contact with, or used a Juul or similar vaping product. Recently, there have been many advertisements and public warnings of the use of this product. But what makes them so bad? Why are they so addictive? What do these devices really contain in them? Most importantly, why are they so popular? These are all frequently asked questions, that surprisingly a lot of teens do not know the answer too. But knowing what you are putting into your body is important, as well as knowing the health impacts.

First off, a lot of people don’t know that there actually is nicotine in Juuls. JUUL labs, the most popular producer of vaping products, say that the pods are made of a proprietary blend, and it is a known fact that nicotine is a part of this blend. Some of the other ingredients are Benzoic Acid, a mix of propylene, glycol and glycerine, and then flavoring. Benzoic acid is a preservative used generally for food additive, the blend is used to create a clear vapor, and the flavoring has not been specified with what goes in it but is most likely made from natural or synthetic substances.

A single JUUL pod has as much nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes according to the CDC. JUUL uses nicotine salts that allow very high amounts of nicotine to be inhaled easier and with less irritation. Two-thirds of people who use JUUL that are 15 to 25 years old don’t know that JUUL has nicotine in it.

Nicotine is addictive because it leads to the release of dopamine in our brains, which acts like a “reward” system. In this way, every time someone takes a hit of the Juul, the nicotine causes dopamine to be released and the user is rewarded, and want more and more, which is how people get addicted.

Nicotine can hurt important parts of the brain that impact attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. It is extremely addicting as well, Seattle Prep Science Teacher Mr. Meza said, “while JUUL may market itself as an alternative to cigarettes, the nicotine quantity may still be enough to lead to addiction.”

Nicotine can impact the brain significantly, Meza said, “nicotine also impacts other areas in the brain leading to non-dopamine pathway symptoms (non feel-good symptoms)…for example, nicotine impacts areas in the frontal lobe which help control decision-making & judgement (over time these areas may experience deficits).” It is very harmful to the lungs, and some of the flavorings are able to be digested by the gut but not safe for the lungs. Chemicals, metals such as nickel, tin, and lead, or ultrafine particles can be placed into the flavoring that can cause cancer.

One of the illnesses that has been connected and tracked to Juuling is “popcorn lung”. It is a condition that damages your lungs’ smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath. This is another name for bronchiolitis obliterans which is a lung disease that diacetyl. Diacetyl can be found in flavored e-cigs such as Juul. In the fall of 2019, there was a large outbreak of bronchiolitis obliterans. Once again, another danger of Juuling has risen to the surface: Juul has not released what is really in their products.

Meza concluded, “The business model is nasty/dirty – they of course want to sell a drug that makes people coming back for more – addiction.”