2019 Scholarship Recipient

With such an advanced and ever changing society, the United States is confronted with more problems than ever before across all facets. One paramount issue in society is the underage Juul epidemic, an e-cigarette that contains nicotine, which has become exceedingly widespread among high school and college students. Many health risks accompany the use of a Juul e-cigarette, especially since it is so effortless to use. As this detrimental outbreak continues to advance at an exponential rate, a solution needs to be discovered to discourage the threat of underage vaping.

Juul was intended strictly for adult smokers. However, it has made its way into the hands of young teenagers. It has spread like wildfire, and doesn’t show signs of halting. The cause behind its rapid proliferation is the sleek design and its resemblance to a flash drive, making it painless to sneak into classrooms and homes, making teachers and parents completely oblivious of its existence. In fact, the presence of Juul has skyrocketed over other brands of e-cigarettes for this reason, and dominates the e-cigarette market today. When in use, the Juul releases a small puff of vapor that students can release into backpacks, jackets, or the air, because it dissipates in seconds. The pods required for its use come in a variety of flavors, such as mint, mango, and fruit medley, enabling the scent to disguise itself as a harmless lotion or body spray and go unnoticed by adults. It only takes seconds for students to use it and resume classwork while a teacher has their back turned. Additionally, this device can be plugged directly into a laptop, permitting it to go unrecognized in the classroom and home. The discreet design of this vape pen allows it to be used so readily, which considerably contributes to the problem surrounding it.

The presence of Juul is spreading along with its damaging effects. Almost all high school students are aware of this harmful device, and many use it on a daily basis. However, only a select few are conscious of the fact that it does contain nicotine, so it is not much more different than a traditional cigarette, while additionally containing potentially toxic chemicals. Nicotine can become addictive quickly. They are using this product at a crucial point in their lives, as their brains are still developing. It can severely impair the ability to learn and concentrate, while altering behavior and memory. The input of these chemicals into the body may result in issues with heart health and increase the risk of heart attack. Additionally, it could cause complications with the body’s hormones and gastrointestinal tract. Some users reported becoming dependent on nicotine, ultimately turning a recreational activity into a serious chemical dependency problem. Because Juul is a relatively new product, its short and long term effects are not known with certainty, but experts believe that they resemble the effects of nicotine in tradition cigarettes. Cigarettes contain carcinogens, cancer-causing substances, and it is believed that similar chemicals are present in products like Juul. Because this 21st century cigarette is composed of nicotine, its health risks are just as monumental as normal cigarettes.

This discreet device has caused a horrific epidemic. Its invasion into the teenage population has brought adverse results and must be put to rest sooner rather than later. The Food and Drug Administration is already working with the creators of the Juul, as well as distributors of the product, to combat the issue and keep it away from developing teenagers and young adults. In fact, the company has raised the minimum age for buying its products from 18 to 21 as a consequence of state and federal pressure, but this alone is not enough to stop the calamity. One potential way of solving this crisis is advocating for and funding educational efforts for underage users. The reason it has become so widespread is because many people think it is simply flavored water vapor, and are unaware of the fact that they are putting copious amounts of nicotine into their bodies. Due to this, many users are convinced that e-cigarettes are not virtually as deleterious as traditional cigarettes. Young users need to be thoroughly advised that it is in fact composed nicotine, which is highly addictive and inimical to the human body. The associated repercussions of Juul should be made clear to students both when they purchase it and in the place it is most commonly used, schools. If the creators of Juul genuinely intended its products for adult users strictly, they should use their revenue to fund efforts to prevent underage users and strongly advocate its negative health ramifications through television and social media advertisements. School districts must also take firm measures to combat this epidemic by monitoring students closely in the building, creating tough punishments if caught using a Juul, and even go as far as banning USB drives in schools to eliminate confusion, as some districts have already done, while also reminding students periodically through presentations of its terrible effects. Additionally, third party sites, such as Craigslist and eBay, that are selling the product do not require buyers to be 21 or older to purchase a Juul vaping pen and pods, allowing it to conquer a young population. If these sites, among many others, implemented an extensive identification process, the presence of e-cigarettes could be greatly reduced in underage users, which would begin to minimize the epidemic. If the producers of Juul, school districts, and other retailers attempt to solve the Juul crisis, they can greatly decelerate its trajectory in today’s society. Changes need to be implemented to prevent this epidemic from escalating at such a rampant rate.

As I pursue a career in the healthcare field, I hope to advocate against the usage and production of such products. Furthermore, I hope to teach and inform young users about the dangers and detrimental consequences of using harmful products on their health and well being.

Phillip Mathangani Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
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