You see them everywhere — sleek, black cylinders tucked in students’ pockets, little objects resembling flash drives hidden in palms.
The student body at Boston University jokingly considers vaping a campus-wide epidemic. It’s something that gives us character, something we can make fun of. Here at The Daily Free Press, many of our Interrobang answers in our print issues riff on the fact that freshmen are addicted to “Juuling,” vaping’s ugly twin sister.
But the federal government doesn’t seem to take the subject as lightly.
The head of the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that vaping has reached “epidemic” proportions, cracking down on e-cigarette manufacturers and requiring them to decide within 60 days how they will address this problem or face removal of their products from shelves.
We all know that vapes contain nicotine. We must understand that while we can use our personal discretion as to whether we believe vaping is dangerous or addictive, we can’t deny that the heads of these companies are the same officials who tricked our parents and grandparents into developing life-threatening addictions to smoking.
Because we see vaping as a new trend, we might assume vape companies are new, independent businesses. But in reality, cigarette companies own a large part of the vape market, and these companies are well-versed in manipulating youth.
JUUL Labs responded to the FDA’s announcement with the statement that it is “committed to preventing underage use” of Juuls.
Whether or not the company has designed itself to appeal to younger audiences, the fact is that youth vape at much higher rates than people above the age of 30. Only 22 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds believe that vaping is dangerous, compared to 83 percent who say that smoking is dangerous. It’s hard to believe that the industry isn’t doing anything at all to win over young customers with its use of fruity flavors and technological design.
Vaping was popularized as a way to wean smokers off of cigarettes, but with cigarette companies taking over the vape market, the purpose of Juuling has switched from helping adults stop smoking to trying to get teens to develop dependencies on nicotine, making them customers for life.
A law signed by Governor Charlie Baker will go into effect January, raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Will this make any difference? Those with a will will find a way, and there’s no greater will than addiction.
The FDA is clearly trying to learn from the past with cigarettes. But even though cigarettes and vapes both contain nicotine, there’s a huge social disconnect between how the two products are perceived. People either Juul to emulate the people they see on social media, under Instagram pages like @ImShmacked and @barstoolsports, or they Juul ironically. They don’t Juul fully comprehending that they may incur serious lung damage while trying to blow vapor rings when their teacher’s back is turned.
It’s hard to comprehend how life-consuming a nicotine addiction is unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. Making vapes inaccessible to people who use it for their intended purpose is wrong, but we need to reach a middle ground where those who vape to quit smoking can, and those who vape to look cool at parties recognize its dangers.
If this many kids are becoming addicted to nicotine, taking it away entirely is not the solution. We didn’t have to take cigarettes off the shelves in order to see drastic decreases in teen smoking — instead, we saw mandatory education.
Over the years, we’ve patted ourselves on the back because smoking has declined steadily, but either we haven’t effectively tried to say that Juuling isn’t much better than smoking, or teachers haven’t been able to cut through and separate its health and social implications.
Let’s do the same thing with Juuls that we did with cigarettes — make them less cool.