Vaping is a relatively new trend among our youth. In a time where everything is moments away from becoming a “viral sensation”, how did vaping become a trend at all? The popular vape company, “JUUL”, may have something to do with that. JUUL designed an e-cigarette that could easily be disguised as a USB flash drive and can fit in the palm of the hand. It’s not only the technological improvement that increases the attraction of the device, but the pods themselves contain as much nicotine as 1-2 packs of cigarettes.
The combination of design, social media and addictive chemicals proves to be an effective selling strategy, especially among the youth. However, JUUL and other vape companies claim their ads aren’t targeted to the younger population, but one study from a group of researchers from Stanford Research found that the early days of JUUL’s launch and up to 2018 featured ads that were “patently youth-oriented.”
After exploring the reason why vaping is popular, let’s examine how it has morphed into a public health concern. While vape companies continually tout their devices’ ability to “improve the lives of adult smokers,” adult smokers are in fact not the primary users of these products. Thankfully, we owe it to prior coalitions and organizations who educated youth on the dangers of traditional cigarettes. The use of traditional cigarettes among youth has dropped over recent years. While this progress is good, when money is on the line, large companies find a way to keep pushing products to earn their next penny. Through vaping, companies can avoid the negative stigma associated with cigarettes and tobacco, while keeping and creating new customers through nicotine addiction development and sustainment. Profit drives vaping company policy, and consumers drive profits.
Let’s Talk Money
We know money drives vape companies, but what does that mean to the customer? Well, a JUUL device is $8 (plus shipping of course) and a 4-pack of JUUL pods is $20.99. If one pod lasts 1-3 days on average, that’s an estimated $40 per week being given to these vape companies. On a larger scale, that’s $1,920 per year. As an employee making $12-15/hour, you are using one week of pay to give to vape companies.
It’s Just Money… So What?
Maybe funding a global vape market with an estimated value of 12.41 billion doesn’t seem like that large of a cost. What about the physical cost? E-cigarettes and vaping devices typically contain nicotine. Nicotine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and body and is highly addictive. Teens are at a higher risk for developing an addiction, partially due to a developing brain that is not yet fully formed to control impulses. It is this very developing brain that is vulnerable to outside interference. After being exposed to nicotine, these teens are more likely to experience nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning. It is also important to note that several studies suggest non-smoking youth will be more likely to try traditional tobacco products in the future if they use e-cigarettes.
The Real Cost of Vaping
The main problem when examining this issue is determining what constitutes the “real cost.” The financial costs can be quickly observed and calculated. The physical costs are felt directly and indirectly, but what about the possible correlation between nicotine addiction and other substance misuse? What about the other ailments and illnesses that are more likely to occur because of nicotine use? What about the complications from future tobacco use that stems from starting with vaping products? This intricate web of effects and correlations makes it difficult to know the exact cost of vaping, but we know the cost is high. Avoid the tangle of costly web and choose health. For parents and community adults, foster a desire to be healthy among the youth. It’s our responsibility to stay knowledgeable and informed about the issues our youth are facing. For youth reading this who are grappling with vaping, or perhaps have friends dealing with nicotine addiction, be that change. It starts with one person, making the change.
Belluz, J. (2019, January 25). The vape company juul said it doesn’t TARGET teens. its early ads tell a different story. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2019/1/25/18194953/vape-juul-e-cigarette-marketing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 16). Youth and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.html
Know the risks of e-cigarettes for young people: Know the risks: E-cigarettes & young people: U.s. surgeon general’s report. E. (n.d.). https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html.
Mandal, D. A. (2021, March 18). What is Nicotine? News. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Nicotine.aspx.
MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Nicotine: Facts, effects, and addiction. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240820#history.
Vessel®. (n.d.). How much Do Vapes cost in 2021? A price breakdown. Vessel®. https://www.vesselbrand.com/blogs/news/how-much-do-vapes-cost-in-2021-a-price-breakdown.