The juul epidemic


The JUUL is the fifth e-cigarette from the left. While JUUL is the brand name most students use the term “juuling” when smoking any e-cigarette.

Erika Kramer, Staff Writer

For senior Haylee Malenfant, seeing her classmates use of nicotine products has become an everyday occurrence.

Malenfant is a senior at Notre Dame Prep who saw the spread of juul use start her freshman year and is now sees the new rules regarding nicotine use being implemented on campus.

“I never quite understood why people started to use these products in the first place,” Malenfant said.

In spite of multiple health risks, there has been an increase in the number of youths using e-cigarettes, according to the Federal Drug Administration.

Because of this fact, NDP has taken multiple proactive steps this year, including creating a PSA to educate students, installing sensors in the bathrooms, and incorporating a unit in Health classes.

Principal Jill Platt said, “NDP will not be known as the JUUL school.”

The topic has been on the forefront of student life this year with the administration’s introduction of new rules regarding drug testing. as well

Since Oct. 1, the new rule states that if a student tests positive for nicotine, he or she is immediately searched. Then, if a nicotine product is found in his or her backpack or car, the student will be suspended and be placed under review.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth with about 11.7 percent of high school students using them.

So, what exactly are nicotine products? And how did they become popular?

JUUL is a brand name for an electronic cigarette that uses nicotine salts that exist in leaf-based tobacco. The expression juuling has become synonymous with the term smoking electronic cigarettes.

Unlike Malenfant, another NDP student, Jodi, said she began juuling three years ago as a freshman because she didn’t want to be the only one on her sports team not doing it.

Social Pressures

The reasons why people start to use these products vary. Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, said he believes adult users think that they are using a healthier smoking method with juul or as a way to ultimately quit smoking cigarette, but what about teens?

“As soon as one person started to juul, it led to another almost like a ripple effect,” Malenfant said.

One senior 18-year-old juul user said, “I started juuling freshman year because everyone else around me was, and I was curious about the buzz.”

“I think high schoolers are easily influenced by the actions of other people around them whether those actions are good or bad,” the juul user said.

Dean of Men Tom White oversees aspects of protection on campus, ranging from areas such as security, fire drills, active shooting protocol, accidents and safe environment violations.

White said that JUUL specifically targets youth as a way to grow their product in the market. “We treat nicotine differently because the company specifically targets teenagers with the way they advertise,” White said.

“I think JUUL is the perfect drug for a brain, because kids believe they are using something that isn’t as harmful as it actually is, and they get addicted,” White said.

Cigarettes vs. E-Cigarettes

Tobacco accounts for nearly 6 million deaths annually throughout the world or for one in 10 adult deaths, as nearly one person dies every six seconds, according to the NIDA.

One research-based benefit of smoking tobacco is that it is the one of the preventable risk factors for many non-communicable diseases, including COPD, atherosclerotic diseases, stroke and many malignancies.

NIDA also states that only about 6 percent of smokers are able to quit in a given year.

According to Howard Koh, assistant secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “We cannot end the tobacco epidemic without focusing our efforts on young people.”

E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco–but they contain a liquefied, purified version of the same nicotine that naturally occurs in tobacco. According to a study done by doctors at the University of Louisville, the main difference between normal cigarettes and e-cigarettes is that there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, which use nicotine and other chemicals to produce a vapor.

When inhaled, nicotine rapidly is absorbed into the circulation and reaches the central nervous system by crossing the blood-brain barrier.

“I knew about the fact that juul uses nicotine and chemicals to produce the vapors that come from juul, but I was more curious about trying it instead of being concerned about what exactly those ingredients meant for my health,” the 18-year-old user said.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse concluded that nicotine causes brief euphoria in the brain and the nicotine “high” is different than that of other drugs. The nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward circuits of the brain, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to youth and promote science campaigns that educate them on dangers of tobacco and nicotine.

Malenfant said, “I think using these products is not smart because during our teenage years we should not be damaging our bodies, and I see how addictive they are.”

The Nicotine Choice

For the 18-year-old user, “Vaping for me is all about the buzz; I started out of pure curiosity,” he said.

The nicotine “buzz” is a calming sensation that washes over a user. The buzz is also known as a powerful throat hit much like what smokers experience.

Both scientific research and students who juul report the desire for this buzz ultimately leads to nicotine addiction. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the largest supporter of the world’s research on drug use and addiction.

“At first it wasn’t something I was addicted to because I wasn’t doing it properly, but being more curious about how to do it right led to an addiction,” Jodi said.

“I do hide juuling from my parents because they would probably be disappointed that I am putting what they consider harmful things in my body,” another student user said.

According to Dean White, the ratio of parents who are aware of their children’s use of nicotine versus those who aren’t is about 50-50.

According to a random survey NDP students, 42 percent believe that juuling is a way to feel good and relieve stress.

“I use it as a way to calm nerves and relieve tension because the way I feel after is very calming,” the student juul user said.

However, the NIDA states that nicotine causes more stress because when users have an addiction they constantly are drawn to it and the pressure being away from it can cause worry.

While the price to pay for using e-cigarettes can be an addiction or health problems, the real price does not come cheap. “I vape a couple times a week and spend about $40 a month,” the 18-year-old user said.

Online a JUUL device costs $34.99, and a four-pack of nicotine pods costs $15.99. JUUL nicotine pods are available in a variety of flavors: mint, mango, creme, fruit, cucumber, classic tobacco, and menthol.

Not only are the health consequences a deterrent for Malenfant: “I am not the legal age of 18, so I would have to obtain the product illegally.”

Rules and Regulations

Nicotine has also been a concern for Mrs. Platt since she became principal two years ago. She said does not want the students to be affected or the school to be defined in a bad way.

“The drug testing and nicotine testing is not because we want to catch students, but rather we want to help in your development and have a free out from the peer pressure to use this device,” Mrs. Platt said.

Dean White said students who test positive for nicotine with no possession of the device will receive a three-hour Saturday detention but no probation. However, a second offense is grounds for a 30-day sport suspension and probation.

“One important thing to add is that no one has ever been kicked out for testing positive because we can work with that, but we can’t work with the deceit of hiding it or using fake urine,” Mrs. Platt said.

Mr. White said he spends his time ensuring a safe and comfortable atmosphere at NDP which includes drug and nicotine testing. “My main goal is to stop the use of nicotine products on campus.”

Students who are 18 and test positive for nicotine are allowed to make the choice to smoke for themselves and will receive only a phone call home as long as there is no possession of a smoking device on campus. The same punishment of suspension results if there is possession on campus.

“Legally, it is their right to use nicotine if they desire, but we highly encourage against it and do not want it on campus,” Mr. White said.

After fall break, sensors were placed in the bathrooms to detect the chemicals and nicotine from vapors as well as decibel levels. “Not only do the sensors detect chemicals in the air but they also are an anti-bullying mechanism, so I receive a text and email every time the decibel level or chemical imbalance is set off,” Mr. White said.

The sensors, however, are not to be mistaken as cameras or recorders. “Some students thought we were recording them, but that’s illegal and against safe environment practices; we would never implement that,” he said.

“The sensors aren’t perfect, but I have already seen a positive change in the atmosphere of school and students with the desire to not juul whether or not it is because they don’t want to get caught,” Mrs. Platt said.

Nicotine testing already has had an impact on some students. “Testing made me stop juuling. I tried to quit a couple times but was unsuccessful, but I’m grateful for it because it has opened my eyes to the realities of juuling and the effects it has,” one former e-cigarette user said.

“I can’t express more than anything that the understanding of testing is the support and love for our students that’s behind it,” Mrs. Platt said.

Nicotine Education

Brian Fischer is the wellness and health and physical education teacher at Notre Dame Prep. During the year he teaches a chapter in health class based on tobacco where he includes lessons and education about vaping and juuling, including the latest research about e-cigarette use negative impact on health.

“I along with some other teachers attend Not My Kid classes to make sure we are educated and up to date on the nicotine craze,” Mr. White said.

Mr. Fischer said, “I think education is the most important part of stopping the use of these devices. Kids want to learn about it, and once they do, they realize how bad it is, and they choose to stop or never do it.”

He added, “I think it is a problem everywhere, not only at Notre Dame Prep; our focus is to educate students so they can make good choices.”

Mrs. Platt concurred, “The reality of smoking anything is bad, and all we can do is educate students; it’s really about the process of helping them develop.”