Banner by Lori Huang

Suicide and Guns: By the Numbers

by Maura Sackett

Utilizing marketing tools such as Instagram, brightly colored JUUL pods and a sleek product design, JUULs have rapidly replaced cigarettes as a new means of nicotine intake. These attributes expand the range of targeted consumers to include younger generations. This is because social media, and technology in general, are at the center of today’s society. With nearly everyone carrying phones and laptops, ignoring mass media references to e-cigarettes or other narcotics is difficult – if not impossible. This then begs the question: Why don’t e-cigarettes have the same advertising restrictions as regular cigarettes? In light of the fact that forty percent of e-cigarettes users between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four had never smoked regular cigarettes before e-cigarettes, one must question the marketing tactics employed for the sale of such items.

Mass media representation is largely responsible for the success of JUUL’s widely popular products. Through advertisements and commercials, JUUL broadcasts the “benefits” of the device – stating that e-cigarettes can help adults quit smoking. However, while these products may help older individuals cut back on traditional cigarettes, the advertisements also show adolescents that JUULs are not as addictive and can be safely as a “relaxation” tool.  

Given that 37.3 percent of high school seniors and 10.9 percent of eighth graders have used e-cigarettes within the past year, JUUL has not successfully limited teen exposure to nicotine. While they have eliminated their Instagram and Facebook pages in a potential effort to avoid direct promotion to teenagers, their initial advertisements have already reached millions of young adults. When it comes to older adults, JUUL promotes their product as a way for adults to quit smoking. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have shown that those who use e-cigarettes are also likely to smoke regular cigarettes. As such, it is unlikely that JUULs help reduce the use of regular cigarettes.

When discussing e-cigarettes, it is important to note that they do not contain as many harmful chemicals as normal cigarettes. However, that does not mean e-cigarettes are safe. In fact, one JUUL pod contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. As with any nicotine product, this can seriously damage brain development in those younger than twenty-five. Nicotine can potentially lead smokers to have trouble paying attention and difficulty learning. According to the CDC, this is because nicotine changes the way connections form in the brain, thus making learning and remembering new concepts more difficult.

Consumers should consider more than simply the effects of nicotine before purchasing e-cigarettes. A common misconception concerning e-cigarettes is that the aerosol is “water vapor.” On the contrary, the CDC states that the aerosol contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead. Not only do smokers inhale these, but the fumes released can be toxic to children and adults alike --  resulting in acute nicotine exposure. Such an illness is caused by ingesting or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through one’s skin or eyes.

Declared an epidemic among today’s youth by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, vaping has become a rapidly growing cause for concern in the United States. The vaping trend, facilitated by JUULs, might be more aesthetically pleasing than cigarettes. This is precisely why the device is so dangerous to consumers. With a modern, clean appearance and an easy recharging system, JUUL has taken over the world of e-cigarettes in the minds of young adults. Upon the establishment of the company in 2015, JUUL’s initial advertisements were bright, colorful, and contained attractive models. One of JUUL’s earliest marketing campaigns, “Vaporized,” exemplifies this through its incorporation of young models, social media and live events. Vice, a major media outlet targeted at young adults, gave JUUL a full page spread in their magazine’s July issue. Combine sleek, modern marketing and misleading health claims and you have the beginnings of a new wave of nicotine addiction.