In April 2017, Harbinger investigated a new type of electronic cigarette, the Juul, being found in the hands of a few students around the school. At this point in time, only 13 percent of East students could be found owning the device. But now, as the FDA has announced the usage of Juuls among minors as being an “epidemic,” 31 percent of students at East own a Juul of their own, going through an average of 2-3 pods a week.
In April of 2017, Haney confiscated the first Juul at East ever. Now, Haney confiscates one a day — with each catch coming with a two to three-day suspension.
In a press release issued Sept. 12, the FDA labelled Juuling as an epidemic, which is no mistake according to attorney Esfand Y. Nafisi, who is leading a class action lawsuit against Juul.
In the recent Harbinger poll of 345 students, 83.7 percent of them consider Juuling to be an epidemic.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking declined among teens and middle schoolers from 2011 to 2017. Then Juul happened. According to a Jan. 9, 2018 report from the Campaign for Tobacco free kids, there were over 2.1 million youth e-cigarette users. Now, the teenage generation has been labelled Juul’s Guinea Pig Generation by the Public Health Law Center — and the long-term health effects are unknown.
According to Nick Clemons,* Juul is everywhere. Bathrooms, basement parties, parking lots. A normal hallway occurrence is to be asked, “Can I rip your Juul? Let’s meet in the bathroom in five.”
The FDA stated in a press release on Sept. 18 that about 80 percent of youth do not see great risk of harm from regular use of e-cigarettes. The FDA finds this to be “particularly alarming considering that harm perceptions can influence tobacco use behaviors.”
The long term effects of vaping are unknown — but the long term effects of nicotine aren’t. And one Juul pod, a replaceable cartridge filled with nicotine and flavorings, contains the same amount as an entire pack of cigarettes.
According to Dr. Nikki Nollen from the Department of Preventive Medicine at KU Medical Center, nicotine rewires the brain. Exposure to nicotine can damage brain development by disrupting and altering the growth and structure of the circuitry part of the brain that controls attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction, according to the Public Health Law Center.
“Adolescents who would never use regular cigarettes are smoking Juul which is exposing these adolescents to pretty large amounts of nicotine,” Nollen said. “Nicotine by itself is a harmful drug, so we’re getting adolescents who would have not had any exposure to nicotine now getting exposed to nicotine.”
Nicotine also affects the heart rate and blood pressure. According to Pulmonary & Critical Care medicine doctor Scott Rawson, who works at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, there is no clear end point when Juuling — people will just Juul through a two hour movie and go through pods without considering nicotine intake. Opposed to the clear end point in cigarettes — there is an understanding of how many cigarettes have been smoked. Besides the effects of nicotine, he has also discovered “popcorn lung,” a type of pneumonia that causes intense inflammation that destroys lung tissue. He has been more frequently treating popcorn lung in teens, which is believed to be caused by the flavoring in Juuls and electronic cigarettes.
Rawson thinks we won’t be able to see the long term consequences of Juuling for another 15 to 20 years. The vast majority of his patients have stopped tobacco smoking, but he now fears for how much his patients are vaping in place of the cigarettes.
“We spent a generation trying to get people to stop smoking,” Rawson said. “And now I worry that we’re starting a new generation of new smokers. And so the smoking rate will actually go up.”
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