The JUUL epidemic has become just that— an outbreak of the use of e-cigarettes that has traveled to every state and to every bodega. Why has it become an issue in the high school community? According to the 2019 National Tobacco Survey, 27.5% of high school students and over 5 million youth were using e-cigarettes. To put that into perspective, approximately one out of every four high school students have used these e-cigarettes. The rapid dissemination of e-cigarettes has consequences. According to the Surgeons General, the evidence from a longitudinal study shows that e-cigarettes are strongly associated with the use of other tobacco productions among youth and young adults, including tobacco cigarettes. This is a big health concern for all the youth— and even adults— that are not aware of the health implications of this product because it is relatively new.
But why are these products so popular? JUUL got the ball rolling in 2015 when they launched ad-campaigns with models, parties, and eye-catching images. Not surprisingly, a study in JAMA Pediatrics found that 8 out of 10 of JUUL’s followers in April 2018 were between the ages of 13-20. Gaining social media traction, a popular theme of videos emerged on Social media: teens recording videos of themselves using the product. Adding these social attributes with the highly addictive chemical, Nicotine, JUUL took the e-cigarette competition to the next level. It is no surprise that JUUL controls such a large percentage of the market shares: according to the Truth Initiative, the sales have skyrocketed from 24% in August 2017 to 75% in October 2018.
According to one local Queens resident, the number of teens smoking JUUL products seems to increase daily: “I have seen many kids with these JUUL devices in their hands. I think this is a step in the wrong direction.” While some Queens residents seem surprised by the surging popularity of JUUL products, others are more focused on the negative health effects that are likely to follow. According to one Queens resident, who requested to remain anonymous, “these JUUL products were meant to help people with the cigarette cravings, not give little kids an addiction to nicotine”
What’s next for JUUL? They are currently under heavy scrutiny for the dramatic rise in the use of e-cigs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For starters, the FDA has issued a warning letter stating that the popular e-cig company has violated federal regulations because the FDA has not approved JUUL as a safer alternative to cigarettes. In fact, 400 people have reported being ill from vaping related diseases.
Looking ahead, the city where the JUUL company was founded, San Francisco has banned the sale of all nicotine products. This may take precedence in other cities: On September 17, 2019, New York state issued a statewide ban on most nicotine flavored nicotine vaping products. Many legislators are looking to find a solution to slow down and prevent the teen JUUL epidemic from spreading any further. As this epidemic continues, the government and state agencies should take action towards the fast-growing e-cig industry.