If it's been a while since you've set foot in a high school, you might not know that the "dangerous new trend" among Teens These Days is JUULing — aka vaping with a very specific brand of e-cigarette called a JUUL. With its flavored liquid cartridges and rechargeable battery, the JUUL seems like any other e-cig, but it's is much smaller, sleeker, and far more discreet.
Of course, as "cool" as JUULs may look, they're still e-cigarettes. They contain nicotine, which makes them addictive. But what makes them more hip than the countless other brands on the market? We asked some actual teens to find out.
According to Andy*, a high school senior,"It’s just easier for kids at school to get away with." Mary, a high schooler from Boston, says she has "no clue" why they're so popular, but adds that they look just like USB chargers, which we guess would be easy to hide in a classroom.
But it's not like teachers don't know what a JUUL looks like. "Caught a kid with one once," a high school math teacher told us. "They mainly do it in the bathroom…but I’ve seen kids do it in class before and blow the vape into their sweatshirts." He says that some kids seem to like JUULing because they get to show off their, um, sweet smoke tricks.
If JUULs were just the latest fidget spinner — a distracting but ultimately harmless item — it wouldn't be a huge deal. But like we said, they're just as addicting as any other e-cigarette.
"People JUUL for the buzz most likely," an East Carolina University student says. "And then it gets super addicting."
Avery, a college senior, has never tried JUULing herself but has friends who have. "Some people are, like, weirdly addicted," she says. "But [JUULs] are just funny; they give you a really short buzz like a normal cig."
"I like it because of the nicotine," another ECU student says.
According to the CDC, e-cigarettes are now the most common form of tobacco used among young people. Or, as Andy puts it: "No one really smokes cigs, it's only a vape or JUUL now. Some kids who consider themselves hipster smoke cigs, though."
It's true that JUULs and other vapes don't contain all the same harmful carcinogens that traditional, burnable cigarettes do, so they can be a good alternative for people trying to quit smoking — but that doesn't mean they're good for you. Not only are they addictive, but the nicotine found in e-cigarettes has also been found to negatively affect adolescent brain development.
So, yes, JUULing is actually kind of dangerous — especially for teens. Fortunately, as college senior Garrett says, "They’ll probably phase out in, like, a year."
*Names have been changed.
UPDATE: A JUUL spokesperson reached out to Refinery29 with the following statement:
JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. JUUL is not intended for anyone else. We strongly condemn the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in possession of a JUUL product.
Our goal is to further reduce the number of minors who possess or use tobacco products, including vapor products, and to find ways to keep young people from ever trying these products. We approach this with a combination of education, enforcement, technology and partnership with others who are focused on this issue, including lawmakers, educators and our business partners.