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JUULs are popular and easy to use, but they aren't all fun and games

With a high concentration of nicotine, some Tempe smoke shops choose not to sell JUULs

"JUULs are one of the latest trends on ASU campuses. Students are enticed by the way this device works and looks." Illustration published on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.

It’s a flash drive. It’s a portable charger. It’s a JUUL. Students on ASU's campuses have likely seen them before, even if they didn't know what they were. It’s a trend sweeping across ASU’s campus, but it is not new. 

A JUUL is an e-cigarette highly concentrated with nicotine, known for its sleek look and the powerful buzz it gives. JUULs were first introduced about two years ago, and they have been growing in popularity ever since.

Undergraduate communication freshman Sophia Dubois has been smoking JUULs on and off since they were first introduced. 

“JUULs are so popular because everyone has them so it makes them ‘cool’ and they work well enough to make you feel buzzed,” Dubois said. “I think the fact that they look like flash drives makes it easier to hide them in school. It was small enough to put in your pocket and easy to charge.”

JUULs are known for having a very pleasing aesthetic. They are long, thin, lightweight, slightly rounded rectangles, which is a major turn-on for some people who want to smoke, but want to do it discretely. Users also like the JUUL's "party mode," when the regular white light emitted from the device turns into a flicker of different colors.

There are five different flavors of the JUULpod cartridges – mango, cool mint, Virginia tobacco, fruit medley and crème brulee. One of these pods roughly contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, according to the JUUL website. Each JUULpod contains "0.7 milliliters with 5 percent nicotine by weight," which is a lot more nicotine than it may sound. 

Matt Berger, the owner of Butt Out Mill, located on Mill Avenue, considered stocking his shelves with JUUL starter kits, after receiving calls from customers roughly 10 times a day wondering whether he sold JUULs and JUUL accessories. It wasn’t until he hired an employee with a chemistry degree that he learned how much nicotine is in each pod. He now refuses to sell any JUUL products or products with comparable nicotine levels.

“He told me there are about 50 milligrams of nicotine (in one JUULpod) – it didn’t dawn on me why people liked them so much and then it made sense after he said that,” Berger said. “That is way too much nicotine for me to feel comfortable selling. I get that it has a nice hit to it, but it’s way too high of a nicotine concentration. It can potentially lead to issues. I’m not selling products to make people high off of it.”

Freshman Casey Flanagan with an undecided major felt the effects that JUULs and other e-cigarettes can have on the body.

“I didn’t like the withdrawals that came from (JUULs) having such a high nicotine content,” Flanagan said. “It was good at first, but I noticed that such (a) high nicotine content brought really heavy withdrawals if I didn’t have it (often). I also noticed that hitting it too much throughout the day could make me nauseous by the late afternoon. That became really annoying and was enough for me to stop.”

Keith Wisniewski, a fifth-year biochemistry student and an employee at Butt Out Mill, believes that before smoking a JUUL or any other e-cigarette, potential users should do research to know what is going into their bodies. 

“With these JUULs, we get customers coming in saying they smoke three to four pods a day not realizing multiple pods a day are equivalent to multiple packs of cigarettes a day, which is a really dangerous level (of nicotine),” Wisniewski said. “This is similar to drinking cold brew coffee all day every day – it’s not really good for your heart and it’s not good for your circulatory system. It’s under this disguise that it is not as bad as smoking (cigarettes), but it is nearing the point that it may be, due to the amount of nicotine people are in taking.”

Read more about this topic here.

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