Glasses, pens, and JUUL pods rest on a notebook representing a 2019 student’s school supplies.

When the JUUL Goes to School

By Ally Bolender
Web Content Contributor

The effects of the vaping epidemic are becoming increasingly evident at Texas State University. Students who excessively use vapes, especially the JUUL, are a distraction to other students and pose a threat to the San Marcos environment. As more studies dive into the consequences of the trend, students are left potentially puffing their life away.

When teachers turn their back, students blow clouds of crème brulee during lecture. The dining halls’ electrical sockets are swarmed by students charging suspicious looking flash drives. Peaceful walks down the Quad are interrupted by frantic students, “do you have a JUUL charger?”

The JUUL—for those of you who live under a rock—is an electronic cigarette, and it is infecting college campuses and high schools nationwide. According to JUUL Labs, the JUUL was designed to help cigarette smokers transition off of smoking with a healthier alternative. It also says in its marketing and social media code that JUUL products are “not appropriate or intended for youth.” However, the sweet-flavored pods, aesthetically sleek design and ease-of-use appeals to young adults with no previous nicotine addiction.

On Texas State University campus, the popularity of the JUUL is flourishing. It’s often impossible to walk around campus without seeing one discreetly peeking out of student’s hands.

Young woman lays on her stomach on a blanket in the grass. She is holding her JUUL and smiling. Trees and sunlight surround the background.
Girl with her JUUL e-cigarette. Photo by Ethan Parsa.

The Texas State University tobacco policy states, “…university guidelines prohibiting smoking and the use of all tobacco products at the Texas State campuses in San Marcos and in Round Rock. Tobacco products include all types of tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, pipes and hookahs.” The vast amount of vaping that occurs on campus proves students are unaware of the policy, or just don’t care.

Vaping doesn’t just happen outdoors on campus—in-class vaping poses a distraction to other students. San Marcos is littered with JUUL pods and pod casings. The toxic juice and small pieces of plastic can easily make their way down the storm drains or into the nearby river. JUUL’s presence on campus has also led administrators to think it could be the cause of unexplainable fire alarm triggering, especially in the dorms.

While Texas State University cannot do anything about legal students vaping, students can enforce the tobacco policy on campus and confront fellow students who are being distracting. The vaping epidemic is not exclusive to Texas State University. It is normalized across universities and high schools nationwide. In order to help, remind your peers to just say no to “hitting a juul” and consider the risks involved.

Being a relatively new adaptation of smoking, there is little evidence of long-term effects. Previously, vaping has been perceived as a healthier and safer alternative to cigarettes, but a recent study by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine expose how the flavoring liquid for electronic cigarettes may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when inhaled.

It has been known that two common flavorings of vape juice, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, harm and impair cilia—cells in our airway that act as a defense for our lungs. However, a May 2019 study gives light to how the flavoring used in e-liquids damages cardiovascular health, regardless of nicotine content.

The scientists investigated the effect of the e-liquids on cells called endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels. The cells exposed to the e-liquids are less viable and exhibit significantly increased levels of molecules implicated in DNA damage and cell death. The cells also proved to be less able to form new vascular tubes and to migrate and participate in wound healing. The Stanford Cardiovascular Institute published a paper of their research on May 27, and the findings argue that vaping is not a safer alternative to cigarettes.

Perhaps as new research dismantles our misconceptions, students will (responsibly) dispose of their electronic cigarettes for their own good. But as long as teachers keep turning their backs, there will always be someone hitting a vape.

Featured image by Ally Bolender.

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