This month’s RAYSAC Radar is written by Zoe Farmer, a local high school student and member of RAYSAC Empowered Activist Leaders (R.E.AL. Team).

An alarming new trend known as Juuling has made its way into the hands and health of teens in the Roanoke Valley and across the nation. Concerned teachers and medical professionals are struggling to get the word out as new information regarding some of the dangerous side effects of e-cigarettes are being revealed just as the Juul has begun to make its way into the classroom.

A Juul is a type of vaporizer designed to be compact and discreet. Its long, slender black body strongly resembles a flash drive and can even be charged in a laptop’s USB port. This makes it an easy accessory for teens to hide from adults. As a Junior in high school, however, there’s no hiding the presence of this device in the lives of most of the students. It’s visible in the empty and cracked pods littering the parking lots, in the sickly strawberry-scented vapor lingering in the bathrooms, and in the constant stream of Juul-related posts on social media. There are signs of it everywhere, and yet, not much has been done to educate the public or prevent it from spreading.

I’ve done some investigating at my school in order to figure out what it is exactly that draws so many teens to the Juul. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the things I’ve noticed dedicated Juulers always talking about.

  • As I mentioned above, it’s small and easy to carry around everywhere.
  • They’re extremely easy to buy. Teens are constantly selling them online or passing them around among friends. At 17, if I wanted one, all I’d have to do is ask.
  • They’re simple to use. Juice refills come in packs like a carton of cigarettes and the Juul itself is charged just like a phone.
  • They’re popular. Teens are easily persuaded to follow what their peers are doing. Just as it used to be in style to smoke cigarettes without actually knowing the health risks involved, the same is happening today with young vapers.
  • They don’t think it’s bad for them. This is the most common and most dangerous excuse I hear. When asking friends at school why they choose to vape, nine times out of ten they’ll respond with something along the lines of, “Why does it matter, it’s just vapor.”

It’s important to go over what makes Juuls so dangerous and why they are often misconstrued as harmless alternatives to smoking. Vogue magazine recently published an article highlighting how the vape pen has made its way into the fashion world and the various risks associated with the rise of a new nicotine product into mainstream media. For one, e-cigarettes usually contain nicotine, just in smaller dosages than traditional cigarettes. This makes them a healthier alternative only for current smokers trying to wean themselves off cigarettes and escape the harmful smoke and tar associated with them.

  • For non-smokers such as young teens, e-cigarettes can have the opposite effect, hooking them on nicotine and pushing them to start smoking or experimenting with other drugs.
  • Another alarming feature is its lack of FDA regulation. The industry only just came under the FDA’s authority in 2016 and little is known about what chemicals are actually contained in the vapor.
  • Some have concerns about the solvents used to make the various flavors, such as propylene glycol and glycerin.
  • Others question what metals come off of the device’s heating coils.
  • In the end, when you choose to Juul, you have no way of knowing what kind of toxins might be entering your body.

With the number of teen cigarette smokers decreasing each year, I fear that the rise of vaping products, such as the Juul, filled with nicotine and other harmful chemicals, will bring about its rise once again. It’s extremely important to spread awareness about these growing trends in order to protect current high school and college students, as well as rising generations of pre-teens from the devastating grasp of addictive and harmful chemicals. I hope that by educating more adults on some of the reasons why kids my age have taken to e-cigarettes so quickly, they will be more equipped to know how to stop it, how to educate their children, and how to realize what’s happening if a child is to get involved.