A New Generation of Nicotine

Earlier tonight my 19-year-old sister and I sat down for dinner with my parents at a classic Venice restaurant on Abbot Kinney. We talked about our days, got into some mild political discussion, and eventually arrived on talking about a family friend who had recently entered rehab for drug addiction. This conversation was of course followed by my dad asking “so what drugs do most people your age do nowadays?” Stereotypically, drugs are a taboo topic with parents, but both my sister and I are in college and our parents are genuinely curious people rather than the lecturing type. We explained that our generation mostly looks at stimulants as concert and special events drugs, tending to dabble more in prescription pills such as xanax for more frequent use. “Also, nicotine” my sister stated. My mom rolled her eyes: “don’t tell me you guys are smoking cigarettes.” “Not cigarettes, mom,” my sister exclaimed, “juuls.”

What is a juul?

For the probably few of you who are unfamiliar with it, the juul is an electronic cigarette created a few years ago by PAX, a vaporizer-manufacturing company that has long been a household name in the industry. Their nicotine comes from tiny pods which come in multiple flavors such as mint, crème brulee, and regular tobacco. Each pod contains about a pack of cigarettes’ worth of nicotine, but, as far as we know, none of the other awful chemicals that cigarettes contain. Though the PAX website states that the device was created for heavy smokers as an alternative to cigarettes, the juul has evolved into much more than that.

So what’s all the hype?

Most millennials associate e-cigarettes with big, bulky boxes and gross old men walking down the street. But juuls are anything but this, exemplifying a super-sleek and attractive look that is largely responsible for its huge popularity. The device is slim, no longer than 3 inches, and mimics the look of a flashdrive. For a generation that is obsessed with aesthetic, big bulky vapes are out, and the juul seems perfect.

What’s the point? Is there any buzz?

Juuls have become a backpack item for students on both high school and college campuses across the country, most commonly being seen either at parties or in libraries, which invites quite the contradiction. While frequent cigarette smokers are not as common in our generation, many people still crave a cigarette while drinking, often referred to as “social smoking.” Just the same, social juuling has become a thing. Furthermore, as aforementioned, juuls contain a significant amount of nicotine, which chemically helps to re-stimulate the brain, making it a great study aid during midterms and finals. Vaping also still invokes the breathe in, breathe out relaxing motion of smoking, which is why the juul is a frequent partner for relaxing study breaks in college library bathrooms and stairwells after 4 hours or so of hell.

Additionally, juuls have their own social culture. Similar to how groups of European teenagers and young adults all sit outside and roll their cigarettes together, groups of juulers will go from gas station to gas station picking up pods together and searching for the best flavors.

Are juuls, in fact, converting smokers, as they intended to do?

Full statistics on this matter are yet to come out, but from my observations and conversations juuls have not exactly gotten cigarette-smokers off of their habit, especially since many chain-smokers have claimed that they find the trend extremely obnoxious. Rather, it seems that juuls have created a completely separate population, or a new generation of nicotine. While juuls are obviously better than tar-filled cigarettes, nicotine, in any form, is always addicting, and perhaps this tiny device has created an entirely new generation of addiction.