The 'JUUL' vaporizer: The lesser evil? Or a risky bandwagon vapi

The 'JUUL' vaporizer: The lesser evil? Or a risky bandwagon vaping trend?

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The JUUL starter kit includes the device, and pods The JUUL starter kit includes the device, and pods
The JUUL is a sleek device, making it easy to conceal The JUUL is a sleek device, making it easy to conceal
LUBBOCK, Texas -

While vaping has been around for a few year, smoke shops in Lubbock are seeing an uptick in sales of little vape devices called the 'JUUL.'

"We currently don't have any more and its hard to even get them. They just sell out," Head Hunters manager Brenden Mauricio said.

Juicy Juice Vapes has a similar story.

"People come in and we have to keep restocking weekly," store associate Dylan Pena said.

On its website, the JUUL is described as an "easy to use vaporizer designed for adult smokers looking for a genuine alternative to smoking cigarettes." It's unique because of its discrete nature that delivers a powerful pack of nicotine, and a small cloud of smoke, making them popular among students.

"We see that a lot of college kids come up and they buy in bulks because a lot of places are running out," Pena said.

The JUUL has grown to become the number one vapor product in the nation, with a 700 percent increase in sales. It's appropriately dubbed the "iPhone of e-cigs."

Texas Tech students Jacob, Alex, and Caden all previously smoked cigarettes or used dip before switching over to the JUUL vape pen.

"Honestly, it's crazy to see how many people vape. It's crazy to see how much the JUUL especially has blown up. It's wild," Jacob said.

"It's all over social media, there's jokes about it," Alex said.

The JUUL is marketed to adults wanting to make the switch, but students say some start because it's popular.

"As soon as the JUUL became a big thing, I immediately went and got one because I was like 'wow, this is amazing' because the buzz is just so much better," Alex said.

Students say it's caught on quickly. 

"People see other people and they're like 'dang, I should just go out and buy one of those," Alex said.

"That's what happened to me," Jacob said. "Everbody wants to hit it. Just like cigarettes, it's a social thing."

"I probably get like 30 calls a day for a small one, I mean they're cheaper too and they're easier to use, they're not as complicated as the bigger ones," Mauricio said.

Those who switched from cigs say they can feel the difference.

"After you smoke a cigarette, your lungs just kind of just close up. You never really feel that tired or pressure in your chest," Caden said.

"The carcinogens of smoking, it really damages the lungs and it seems that the people who've transferred to these little JUUL devices really start to breathe better," Pena said.

The problem arises when someone who has never smoked chooses to pick up a vape.

"It is a drug, it is something people will want to use again and we highly recommend if you are not a smoker, if you've never done nicotine, then you shouldn't start."

The JUUL is a cut above the rest in terms of nicotine content.

"Vapes tend to have a smaller amount of nicotine from a zero mg to six mg to three mg, that tends to be the range. Some go to a 12 mg, but the JUULs are a straight forward 50 mg."

According to it's website, one JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs.

"This thing gives you a buzz, it really does. People who have never tried any form of nicotine or tobacco or anything are going to get hooked on this. When this isn't around, they're going to still want to get this buzz some way or some how," Jacob said.

"I think if you never smoked cigarettes before and you moved onto a JUUL, like honestly that's stronger than one cigarette," Alex said.

"You can get a better buzz from [the JUUL] than a cigarette," Caden said.

Dr. Gilbert Derdine, a pulmonologist with Texas Tech Physicians has his own opinions on vaping.

"I think they are less harmful, but I think they are not less harmful than doing nothing."

A 2018 study indicates e-cigs are far less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes have their own set of toxic chemicals, but they are different from what's in cigarettes, but the smoke, the vapor is a lower temperature for the e-cigarettes and so you don't get the thermal injuries that you get with conventional cigarettes," Berdine said.

Berdine noted that we've seen this bandwagon effect of smoking in the past with 'Virginia Slims.'

"I suspect that the social aspect of vaping will have a similar effect. You'll have a cohort of people that will get involved in this activity, not really knowing what they're getting into."

That's the big question mark of vaping. What are they getting into?

"What will happen to the vapers as they get older. So as they go from there teens and twenties, and to their late twenties and thirties some of these people will take up smoking, we just don't know."

Some students aren't worried.

"When I'm 65 years old, I'll be able to tell you if these things hurt my health. My body ain't a temple," Jacob said.

The long term effects of vaping won't be known for decades. As was the case for traditional cigarettes, the back and forth over health risks will likely be ongoing.

While these JUULs are prevalent among college students, especially those involved in Greek organizations, students say high schoolers are taking part in the trend as well.

Nancy Sharp with Lubbock ISD reported that the district has not had a problem with students JUULing.

On its website, JUUL has an age-verification of 21 before you can enter the site. The company has also released a statement regarding the sale to minors:

JUUL Labs' mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. There is no substitute for complete cessation for smokers. Public health experts agree the best option is not to use nicotine products. JUUL, however, offers an alternative for the 40 million existing adult smokers in the U.S. Our research shows that JUUL has helped over half a million adult smokers to displace cigarettes, and we are working to enable millions more to switch through our technological innovations.

We strongly oppose and actively discourage the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in the possession of a JUUL product. We are committed to reducing the number of minors who possess or use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and to find ways to keep young people from ever trying these products. That's why we raised the age of purchasing JUUL on our website to age 21. To further combat underage use, JUUL Labs is focused on education, enforcement, and partnership with others who are working on this issue, including lawmakers, educators and our business partners. Specifically, we are:

· Evaluating technological innovations intended to address underage use.

· Launching educational pilot programs in high schools in California.

· Actively working with law enforcement and community leaders across the country.

· Deploying a secret shopper program to monitor age verification of retailers.

Nicotine is addictive. An individual who has not previously used nicotine products should not start, particularly youth. Recent science raises serious concerns about the adverse effect of nicotine on adolescent neurodevelopment. We are committed to increasing the dialogue around the dangers of nicotine use in adolescents. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate and engage with parents and educators and encourage them to email us at youthprevention@juullabs.com.

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