Vapes and Juuls: History repeats itself

Heydi Ortiz

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Cigarettes were all the rave for the generations before us. Now, vapes and Juuls have taken their place. UNF held a vapes and Juuls workshop on Thursday, Sept. 27 to talk about the dangers of vaping, which has become increasingly common among young people.

Photo by Heydi Ortiz.

According to USA Today, the Food and Drug Administration recently declared youth vaping an epidemic. The FDA claims it will take flavored e-cigarettes off the market if companies, like Juul, fail to prove that they can keep their products away from minors.

Why is this important?

Electronic cigarettes were originally meant to help adults quit smoking, but recently companies have been targeting young audiences across the country. Chantel Folks, a Civcom Policy Intern who works with Tobacco Free Jacksonville, says tobacco industry executives want to ensure consumers get hooked on their products at an early age.

The first generation of e-cigarettes, or “cigalikes,” looked like the traditional cigarettes and were preloaded with e-juice. But Juuls, the most recent device, look like a USB drive, are more accessible and produce little to no smoke, allowing people to use them discreetly.

Juuls cater to the youth not only through design but flavorings as well. Julie Collins, who also works with Tobacco Free Jacksonville, presented pictures of the e-juice flavors tobacco companies use to attract young consumers, including fruity pebbles and bubble gum. Juuls make up 60 percent of the e-cigarette market.

Collins says one Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

“Nicotine is not only addictive, it causes heart problems such as heart attacks and strokes and it thickens your arteries making it harder for blood to pump throughout your body,” she explained.

Refillable tanks and mods are also popular among young adults. The dangers include absorption of nicotine juice into the skin, which, according to Forbes, can lead to elevated blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and potential seizures. Collins also said that the devices can explode if the battery becomes exposed to the e-juice.

First-year international studies major Pamela Martinez says she knows the harmful effects that are caused by vaping, and that young people are attracted to it because of how easy and quick it is to use.

“It’s easy to transport, and I guess it’s cool,” she said. “It’s becoming more mainstream that people just kinda do it because it’s what everyone else is doing.”

UNF has created a smoke-free campus as part of the Breathe Fresh Initiative. However, e-cigarettes are an exception to the rule that allows students to use vapes and Juuls outdoors only.

Collins says one solution to this reported epidemic is to denormalize the use of vapes and Juuls within the community. Because, unlike cigarettes, vaping is more socially acceptable.

“The more you denormalize it the less people you’re going to see with it,” she explained. “The more you see it the more you’re like ‘maybe I should do it too.’”

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