“Is that a USB? A flash drive?”

“Nah bro, it’s just a JUUL.”

The JUUL by PAX Labs has taken college campuses by storm. I’m sure we have all seen people walking around carrying the small ergonomic device on the Spine, in the library, at the bar or even in lecture. According to CNBC, JUUL represented 27 percent of the dollar market share of the e-cigarette market from August to September. The company produces 20 million devices and pods every month, which is still not enough, as they said they cannot keep up with growing demand.

With 41.3 mg of nicotine per JUUL pod, the buzz of a JUUL rip is unmatchable by most other e-cigs and especially more than your run-of-the-mill bogey. As I sit here, taking a hit from my JUUL and watching my friends do the same, I can’t help but wonder — what are we even vaping?

JUUL’s website states that each pod contains “glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavor, nicotine and benzoic acid.”

Firstly, what exactly is “flavor”? As I did some digging, I couldn’t find anything consistent with the Food and Drug Administration’s definition for flavor — “any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice …”

The ingredient benzoic acid doesn’t sound great either. However, according to JUUL, benzoic acid is naturally found in the tobacco plant and contributes to the “ultimate vaping experience.” However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that benzoic acid can cause throat irritation and a cough when inhaled. They recommend getting fresh air and rest after inhaling it, but it’s safe to say most JUUL users aren’t taking a break from the highly addictive vape and aren’t getting fresh air while packed into the moldy Rathskeller basement.

No long-term studies have been conducted regarding the JUUL, so it is hard to say whether it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. For many people trying to quit smoking, however, the JUUL is an ideal means to do so.

For others who just started ingesting nicotine with a JUUL — it is far from perfect. Although it seems obvious that JUULs are less harmful when comparing its list of ingredients to the 4,000 or more chemicals found in cigarettes — for someone who hasn’t smoked and just picks up a JUUL, it could spell trouble.

Many students I have talked to say they hit their JUUL when they are studying and hyped up on caffeine or other stimulants. They also say they have never smoked a cigarette when in the middle of a study session. Their reason was the ease of casually ripping their JUUL while at their study bunker in Glenn G. Bartle Library and the perception of less harmful effects from a JUUL when compared to cigarettes.

With higher concentrations of nicotine per pod than the average cigarette and the wild buzz that comes along with that, coupled with discreet usage, it is far easier for someone to become addicted to nicotine when they start ingesting it via a JUUL. This can be seen in people frantically searching when they think their tiny device goes missing, and when they do lose it, immediately going out and buying another.

The JUUL was designed to help people quit smoking, but it definitely wasn’t designed to stop nicotine addiction — if anything, it has acted as a catalyst. As demand for the trendy device continues to rise, consumers should be aware of the lifestyle they are signing up for. It is a textbook example of a slippery slope that people need to be aware of when they decide to take a rip of their friend’s JUUL. Before they know it, they’ll find themselves on JUUL’s website ordering a starter kit.

Gunnar Jurgensen is a junior majoring in political science.

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