New Health Risks of JUULs

Juling Wang, Writer

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Over the past few years, the JUUL has evolved from a transitional measure used to quit smoking tobacco to a nationwide trend with adolescents. Scarsdale students are no exception to this; if you don’t bump into a small group of students passing a JUUL around in our school’s bathrooms, you will likely see the vapor they left behind. Kids are done with smoking. I think my generation had problems with [cigarettes] in high school … but I feel like now that’s a huge pullback, and kids now find JUULing attractive. We’re going to see a generation of adults who have addictions to nicotine,” said SHS English teacher Kathleen McGreal.

The student body itself is heavily divided on JUULing. “You can JUUL if you want, I have no problem with it,” said SHS student Milan*. “JUULing isn’t as bad as smoking. Some people put JUULs in their water bottles. It happens a lot. A lot of people come in high… Don’t do anything stupid though.” But others don’t understand its popularity and express concern over the risks associated with vaporizers and e-cigarettes. “People shouldn’t do it. I feel like when it comes to doing things like drugs or smoking — scientifically, you can say that one is more harmful than the other, but in the end, it comes down to the same thing,” argued SHS student Boris*.

Recently, new health risks associated with a JUUL’s chemical content have surfaced: regular exposure to nicotine can lead to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and abnormalities in the body’s production of insulin. More studies have detailed impaired neural development in adolescents as a consequence of continued contact with nicotine. But do JUULs have a connection to the progression of lung cancer, the ultimate consequence of its traditional alternative? Recently, viral posts on social media have claimed that JUULs cause lung cancer, making claims such as this message that was widely circulated in group chats:

According to a 2018 NYU study, it is true that JUULing can cause heart disease and cancer. But here’s where the controversy lies: lung cancer only develops after years of exposure to carcinogens like tobacco smoke or inhaled asbestos. JUULs are relatively new, and medical experts agree that it would be impossible for them to cause such a quick progression of lung cancer. JUUL responded to the claims in an issued statement shortly after concerns surfaced:

First, JUUL is temperature regulated to minimize the emissions of combustion-related degradation products. Second, we do not add chemicals of concern on key FDA lists such as formaldehyde as ingredients. (Note that nicotine, while on these lists, is included in our product to facilitate switching for adult smokers.) Third, independent third-party laboratories have conducted validated analytical tests on the aerosol contents of JUUL… The best decision is to never start smoking or initiate nicotine-containing products. We stand by our mission to serve as a true alternative to combusted cigarettes for adult smokers. We will continue to respond as necessary to unfounded allegations.

Ultimately, though it appears virtually impossible that JUULs cause lung cancer, it is clear that they do present a multitude of other health risks. Though students should know that these viral posts are spreading false information, they should still be aware that JUULing is not a safe or healthy option and that JUULs do contain numerous dangerous chemicals that can hurt users.