Juuling: Consequences in the School, at Home, and Beyond By Haley Cionfolo

Ever since its creation in 2015, Juuls, the latest addition to the e-cigarette market, have risen in popularity among teenagers. Because of its small size and resemblance to a flash drive, students across America can smuggle them into virtually any situation, from parties to school facilities. With the help of a willing adult accomplice, like an older sibling or friend, and about thirty dollars, a minor can own a Juul as well as pod. What they are buying by proxy, however, is more than just the latest trend. Rather, they are purchasing an abundance of negative ramifications that can catch up with them in the future.

The most immediate consequences of Juul ownership and use often take place at school. Although it is considered a “minimal issue” at Knoxville Catholic, according to Mrs. Kirk, school counselor, a student Juuling at school would receive “stiff penalties, but it is ultimately a parenting issue.” “It’s a bad behavior…If parents aren’t stopping it at home, all we can do is have zero tolerance for it here,” Kirk said.

If students are caught at Knoxville Catholic, they are suspended immediately, with increasing punishment for further infractions. Disciplinarians, however, often struggle to catch students Juuling due to the odorless vapor the device emits. If a student engages in this behavior outside of school and it is reported to the school’s administration, they will likely have a conversation with Mr. Pumariega, the Dean of Students, and consequences dependent on the circumstances of their conduct.

One of the most notable Juul-related repercussions at Knoxville Catholic, at least in the eyes of the students, has been the closure of the C-wing bathrooms, and later the A- and C-wings themselves, during the lunch hour. These changes, however, go beyond the Juuling issue.

“It is a matter of teachers monitoring students to keep them safe,” Pumariega explained.

Many parents have tried to nip this new form of teenage rebellion in the bud at home but to no avail. With more freedom and mobility than ever, parents cannot continuously monitor their children’s behavior. Even after multiple conversations with his mom, an anonymous student refused to stop Juuling.

My mom smashed one with a hammer, but [my parents] gave up pretty quickly,” the student said. Parents look out for their children’s best interest, but, ultimately, the child can choose to go against their wishes, overtly or secretly.

Parents may be faced with an even greater match than they realize when battling the Juuling epidemic within their home, especially if they have adult children.

“I got mine through my older sister and her friend,” another student noted. An underage student can easily acquire a Juul without parental permission with the help of another adult.

Punishments for Juuling, however, extend beyond the school and the home. The actions of today’s teenagers can have lasting effects on their bodies. Due to the perpetuation of this behavior, students are facing the consequences of nicotine addiction. According to the National Center for Health Research, one Juul pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and the nicotine in the cartridges are in a salt form, thus entering the bloodstream quicker and making the body crave more.

“I did it for the buzz, but the more you do it, you don’t get a buzz. You do it to stop the headaches,” a student affected by nicotine withdrawal noted.

Juul pods, however, contain more than just nicotine. They are a concoction of harsh chemicals with painful ramifications from frequent exposure. After nicotine, the most harmful ingredient in the cartridge is benzoic acid. Used to amplify the effects of the nicotine, “benzoic acid is known to cause coughs, sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting”, the National Center for Health Research confirmed.

Juuling can affect several of the body’s systems. The chemical interference of Juuls can affect a teenager’s cognitive development, as the human brain does not reach maturity until approximately age 25. As the National Center for Health Research reported, the chemicals used in Juuls affect the part of the brain “critical for a person’s cognitive behavior and decision making, leading to increased sensitivity to other drugs and greater impulsivity.” In fact, a British study from 2017 discovered that Juul users are exceedingly more likely to smoke cigarettes within 18 months of regularly Juuling than non-Juulers.

In addition, Juuling has negative impacts on users’ ability to breath, as the activity requires the inhalation of vapors from the device. Especially as usage becomes more frequent, side effects, like shortness of breath, coughing, and more, are common. Students involved in sports are also

struggling to complete basic exercises at their normal pace due to the strain Juuling puts on their lungs.

“I couldn’t run as well, I had trouble breathing, and I noticed…I would wake up in the morning and cough up stuff,” one student-athlete admitted.

Using a Juul is especially dangerous to those with pre-existing respiratory issues, such as asthma, as it could severely worsen their condition and even lead to hospitalization.

The long-term effects of Juuls are still not completely understood, but students seem aware of the possible consequences. Some have taken the warnings more seriously, limiting their usage or stopping completely, while others have taken a more apathetic stance, an attitude of “who cares”, according to one student. Professionals in the medical field, however, hope that teenagers will eventually see the light and realize the magnitude of their actions. “I’m hoping to get to people like this: your body is a machine. Feed it good and healthy things and don’t put anything in it that would give it any confusion, and it will serve you well. It is a web of chemical reactions. You don’t put olive oil in your car, so don’t give your body something it doesn’t know what to do with,” Dr. Raye-Anne Ayo, a local family physician and parent, commented.

Although teenagers are aware of the dangers of Juuling, it is their decision whether to pick up the device or not. Schools, parents, and doctors can object to Juuling repeatedly, but change can only begin amongst the students. They must determine if this trend, the new social craze, is worth the high cost.


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