Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the good news: the number of adults smoking cigarettes continues to steadily decrease—currently only 15.5% of U.S. adults. Thanks to increased awareness and ongoing publicity surrounding traditional cigarettes, more and more adults recognize all of the harmful effects of smoking.
But this recent decrease in tobacco popularity has paved the way for a new type of nicotine product to step into the spotlight. Enter e-cigarettes. “Not only have these devices skyrocketed in popularity since they came on the scene in 2007, they’ve also taken high school students by storm,” explains Nan McCormick, RN, GMC’s thoracic nurse navigator. “In fact, the FDA’s latest preliminary data, not yet published, shows that 2018 ushered in a 75% increase in e-cigarette use among high schoolers (since 2017).”
But not all e-cigarettes are created equal. The latest craze in the vaping world is the Juul device, which alone accounts for two-thirds of the e-cigarette market. So what exactly does all of this mean?
According to McCormick, this is everything you need to know about the booming juuling trend:
1. Juuling—or vaping of any kind—isn’t the same as smoking. “With traditional tobacco cigarettes, the smoking process involves burning tobacco, along with several other harmful chemicals, like tar, oxidant gases, carbon monoxide and of course, nicotine,” describes McCormick.
But e-cigarettes successfully eliminate the harmful burning process and its many toxic byproducts. “Instead, e-cigarettes use battery power to heat flavored liquid, containing nicotine and other chemicals, releasing a vapor.”
2. The flavored liquid in Juuls definitely isn’t harmless. Don’t let those delicious-sounding flavors—mango, cool cucumber, crème brulee, fruit medley—fool you. There’s more to the health picture.
“In addition to nicotine, which isn’t good for anyone, the flavored liquid includes chemicals, like propylene glycol or glycerol, both of which can damage cells, alter brain chemistry and potentially cause cancer,” emphasizes McCormick. “Not to mention that many of the flavorings can impact blood vessel function.” The bottom line here is that juuling (or vaping) isn’t a safe alternative to smoking.
3. Juuls are especially appealing to high schoolers. That must be why over 11.3% of high school students have admitted to vaping in the last 30 days. “Despite the fact that the Juul, and many e-cigarettes, were initially created to help adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, roughly 40% of e-cigarette users had never actually been cigarette smokers,” says McCormick. On top of that, there are many aspects of e-cigarettes, the Juul in particular, that make them ideal for high schoolers:
• Their USB-style appearance makes them easily concealable
• Their connection to technology makes them seem more like a gadget and less like a vaping device
• Their social media presence makes their brand popular and trendy
• Their sweet, dessert-like flavors are appealing teenagers and first-time smokers
• Their disassociation with tobacco cigarettes causes users to believe they’re not addictive
• Their high-levels of nicotine are easily absorbed and encourage higher amounts of smoking per day
4. The FDA is trying to regulate Juuls and other e-cigarettes. But despite their best efforts to minimize the exposure and accessibility of e-cigarettes to teens, their online presence makes it difficult. Not only are many e-cigarette companies active on social media, they also make purchasing devices and flavor pods online easy and convenient.
5. There are ways to stop smoking, vaping, juuling—or all of the above. The truth is, whether it’s smoking, vaping or juuling, they’re all harmful for your lungs, as well as your overall health and wellbeing. “Year after year, lung cancer continues to be the number one cause of cancer death in both men and women,” notes McCormick, “this has got to stop.”
That’s why Gwinnett Medical Center offers a variety of resources to help protect the health of your lungs. Whether you’re an every-once-in-a-while kind of vaper or someone who has smoked for decades, GMC’s experts can help. With everything from a free Freshstart Smoking Cessation Program to an innovative lung cancer screening program, GMC is here to support lasting lung health. To learn more, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/lung.