By Spencer Oakley
If you have spent any time in a school bathroom recently, you may have noticed a strong new air freshener. But that was no air freshener, it was scent produced by a vaporizing device called JUUL that has become hugely popular among teens at Lake Forest High School and many other local schools.
JUULs are marketed as “a real alternative to cigarettes.” Not surprisingly, most users think that they are very safe since they don’t produce the same smoke as cigarettes. If you’re using JUULS, you know that there are real risks associated with it.
A single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, according to the brand’s website. According to the according to the National Institutes of Health, nicotine is highly addictive and has numerous negative health effects that increase through extended exposure over time; places stress on the heart and arteries; accelerates degeneration of the eyes; is a leading cause of impotence in men under 40; weakens the bones; discolors teeth, and damages skin.
JUUL pods produce dangerous amounts of 38 different chemicals when inhaled, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The biggest four, as reported by the New England Journalism of Medicine, are acrolein, a severe eye and respiratory irritant; formaldehyde, a colorless gas that can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat and several types of cancers; acetaldehyde, a poisonous byproduct of alcohol metabolism; and benzoic acid, which degrades the central nervous system when inhaled.
JUULs longterm effects have not yet been studied, but it should not be shocking that these chemicals are known to considerably affect the quality of life if continuously abused over time. In fact, recent tests by toxicologists at the University of Rochester show that vaping inflames mouth cells and promotes gum disease as well.
It should also be pointed out that JUULs are not subject to federal regulation so users don’t really know exactly what it is they are using. The recent prevalence of JUULs in the high school setting is a byproduct of a variety of factors. However, one of the main reasons for their ubiquity is that they are easy to conceal. Akin to a USB flash drive, the JUUL pod can be charged in a school-issued ChromeBook and looks remarkably similar to something that would be of academic value. With JUULs still being a relatively new phenomenon, many teachers and parents are unfamiliar either with the popularity of the movement, or, what a JUUL pod may look like.
These factors might not bother you, oh ever fearless JUULer. But what about everyone else you’re exposing to your untested, unregulated chemicals? Second-hand exposure is an obvious concern, but there is also third-hand exposure.
With all of the dangerous effects of nicotine made readily available, teen cigarette smoking has descended rather dramatically in recent decades. However, unsafe alternatives to cigarette–like chewing tobacco, JUULs, and other assorted e-cigarettes–are making their way into teenagers’ hands. Most of these products clearly have a warning label that reads, “this product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes,” but nonetheless, you won’t be hard-pressed to find a chewing tobacco pouch in a urinal or be exposed to the overwhelming smell of a JUUL pod in an LFHS bathroom.
In the end, those who JUUL are going to do what they want, but you should know what you’re doing.
Or, at the very least, you should think about it.
This article was written by Spencer Oakley, a student at Lake Forest High School. It was first published in The Forest Scout.