“I need the buzz to get me through the day”- Rise in popularity of e-cigarettes at DHS raises health concerns

Emma Jaber, Arts Editor

In recent months, high school culture has been affected by the rising popularity of the e-cigarette. Both Vuse, Juul, and other similar vape-like products have become more and more popular, but don’t seem to be more or less targeted at the teenage market. Legally, you must be 21 to buy Vuse and Juul off their website, or 18 in person, but that doesn’t act as a major deterrent.

“I’ve had a Juul for a little over a month because it’s a fun social thing to do but honestly they are a little stupid, but still fun. My older sister ordered it for me.” said an anonymous Durango High School student.

With what seems like more recent exposure to e-cigarettes, students haven’t been around the product for that long.

“I’ve had a Juul since this past summer and I originally got it cause it was trendy, but now I’m just hooked on nicotine and can’t stop” said another anonymous DHS student.

With different motivations to use e-cigarettes, some students are already starting to feel the addictive effects of nicotine.

“I rely on the [nicotine] buzz to get me through the day, like when I wake up and I’m at work” said a third anonymous DHS student.

Publicly, much of the concern in past years, has been based around the use of weed, cigarettes, and excessive drinking but modern technology has managed to transform the ways that teens can access nicotine. Another enticing factor: it’s compact and easy to hide.

Though purchasing e-cigarettes is illegal, it doesn’t stop teens from seeking them out. Whether obtained from an older friend or sibling or bought in person, they are much more accessible than one would think. Many seniors have turned or are soon to turn 18, the legal age to purchase a Vuse or Juul, but the root of the problem of purchasing one may be the lack of checking I.D’s since many people don’t end up being carded at all.

Another issue of legality regards students having and using these products at school. Obviously, students must be 18 to purchase, but what rules are in place for usage on school grounds?

Federal law states, in the Pro-Children Act of 1994, that state laws cannot allow smoking within educational facilities that receive federal funding. Colorado state law, in the Colorado Clean Air Act 2005, does not prevent the use of electronic cigarettes in public places; however, the state does allow local governments to put ordinances in place regarding e-cigarette usage in public places. Schools more specifically fall under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, stating that in order to reduce exposure levels to tobacco smoke, smoking should not be permitted in any indoor area.

Legality aside, the health concerns regarding such products also pose a threat to students. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects. Although not the same as smoking a cigarette, both Vuse and Juul contain nicotine.

According to the Juul website, the replaceable “pods” are made up of an “e liquid formula based on nicotine salts rather than free base nicotine.” They also explicitly state that no tobacco or e-liquid product should ever be considered “safe”. Ingredients including glycerol, propylene glycol, benzoic acid are all mentioned on the website but they advise to contact a healthcare professional for more information on the impact of vaping or ingestion of nicotine.

The website also claims to serve existing adult smokers, accommodating cigarette-like strength nicotine levels in order to meet the satisfaction of cigarette smokers. The nicotine concentration of one pod contains .07 mL with 5% nicotine, approximately equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.

The Vuse website makes some of the same claims and states that they do not provide products for people trying to quit smoking.

So with so much similarity to the effects of cigarettes, why do students seem to prefer this electronic version?

“Cigs are nasty and bad for you. Juul is better tasting, looking, and gives you a better buzz” said the second anonymous DHS student.

It’s hard to say how long the e-cigarette trend will stick around or if it’s here to stay.