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Local News

E-cigarette company works to prevent new addicts

Young users still reportedly flock to new product – the JUUL

A JUUL e-cigarette sits on a display case Thursday in Joliet.
A JUUL e-cigarette sits on a display case Thursday in Joliet.

A JUUL is a slim, portable vaporizer that contains a cartridge called a pod. That pod is full of a juice that contains several chemicals – as well as enough nicotine to make up a pack of cigarettes.

The e-cigarette is becoming increasingly more common because of its sleek appearance and fruity flavors.

Pods are sold in packs of four, which can be compared with inhaling the amount of nicotine in about 80 cigarettes.

“Many of the teens that try these high nicotine e-cigarettes go on to smoke cigarettes or become addicted to nicotine,” said Dr. John Walsh, a pulmonary physician at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Pods come in eight flavors, including cool mint, fruit medley and mango. They can be bought at tobacco stores, gas stations and through the company’s website.

Inhaling from a JUUL, or “JUULing,” also is a way to get away from the tar and smell of cigarettes. For years, companies have been trying to make a “cleaner” cigarette, and JUUL Labs has done just that.

Just a few years ago, vaping’s popularity grew significantly, and the company has gained a strong presence on social media.

@JUULVapor, the company’s twitter account, frequently targets current cigarette smokers, trying to lure them toward a “healthier” cigarette, with video interviews of smokers that decided to make the change.

“After I took that first hit, I asked my co-worker about the price and right away ordered and went home and that’s it,” a 32-year-old current JUUL user shared in one of the company’s testimonial videos.

The prevalence of the JUUL across social media has also sparked some issues, causing the company to create a new “social media policy.” It will be taking action against third-party social media accounts that promote the product to underage users.

On the company website, it states “we do not want teens or any other nonsmokers to ever use our product.”

Although the company is trying to attract current cigarette smokers to an alternative, teens and nonsmokers are becoming attracted to the product as well.

The company pledged an initial investment of $30 million over the next three years, dedicated to independent research, youth and parent education, and community engagement, according to its website.

The company’s website also stated it will be working closely with school districts and law enforcement to prevent local youth involvement with the JUUL.

The simplicity of the JUUL is unlike any other e-cigarette on the market. It can be inhaled without pressing any buttons and can be charged through any device containing a USB outlet.

The JUUL is made to be carried anywhere while remaining discreet.

“I started smoking the JUUL after my friends had it, and I kind of decided to go with the crowd,” said Darius Wesley, a JUUL user and cashier at a Speedway in Plainfield. “The majority of people that buy JUUL products are just turning 18 or about 19.”

But users may be unaware of the product’s health risks, Wesley said.

“When I first started, it was cool, but now I regret it. I have so much money into it, it’s kind of hard to stop,” he said.

Glycerol and propylene glycol, two chemicals in the liquid of JUUL pods, are commonly used in vaporization liquids, as well as toothpaste. When these chemicals are heated or vaporized, it creates formaldehyde, Walsh said.

Walsh added that inhaling formaldehyde can lead to an increased risk of leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer, which can affect the upper part of the throat behind the nose.

Inhaling large amounts of nicotine also can increase cancer risk and injure blood cells.

According to a survey from Truth Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past, one-fifth of middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 have seen the JUUL used in their schools.

“We have had kids using e-cigarettes in school. I’m not sure if it was this specific device, but once they’re caught, they are disciplined accordingly,” said Tom Hernandez, District 202 director of community relations.

For those in fear of losing their JUUL devices, companies have started making phone cases compatible with holding the device.

CNBC reported that the company releases about 20 million JUUL-related products each month.

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