RSVP Montgomery

It's Uncool to JUUL

JULY/AUGUST 2018

Dr. Brian Richardson
He was a rugged, handsome man. Some may have described him as the personification of the classic American male image. He worked hard, took care of business, and wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. Whether he was in the field herding cattle or escorting his female companion to a dinner date, there was always a cigarette nearby. He was the Marlboro man. Of course, at least four of the models who played the role of Marlboro man have died from smoking-related illness. The men themselves have died, but also has the ability to portray this type of “cool” figure in advertising tobacco-related products. We learned that image can drive habit, and that particular bad habit was linked to far too many deaths in America.

The genius of the Marlboro man advertising campaign was that all they really needed to get you to do is smoke a few cigarettes, and then you were addicted. It’s probably not that easy, since they do smell bad and often times make you nauseated the first time you smoke one. However, the more you smoke cigarettes, the more likely you will develop a habit that is extremely hard to break. Nicotine is most likely the third-most illicit addictive substance, just behind heroin and cocaine.

The Marlboro man would probably not even be relevant in the current era we are now living. Millennials often shun a standardized portrayal of our culture and seek out what is different. They are no longer interested in icons, and instead seek the uniqueness of being different and an individual.

Have you ever heard of juuling? I had not until recently. I consider myself one who keeps up with popular trends, especially since E! TV is often on our television when I come home from work. I knew about vaping, but if you had asked me if I had ever juuled, I might smile and politely change the subject. Experts are now warning that juuling has become the new trend for high school and college students to become addicted to nicotine. There are even juul dealers in high schools who obtain the juuls in bulk and then sell them to their classmates for a profit.

While the cigarette is classic in its appearance, the juul looks more like an USB flash drive that you might plug into your computer. In fact, you can actually charge the device using your computer. Cigarettes come in the classic tobacco flavor or menthol, while the juul comes in multiple flavors like mango and cool cucumber. Cigarettes smell bad and leave an awful lingering stench on your clothes and your breath. The juul has no smell. Can you see why people may make the switch and why we may be facing a new epidemic of teenage nicotine addiction? Your teenager could be juuling in their bedroom at night and you might not even be aware of it.

Since juuling was such a new concept to me, I did need to do a little research to see if this new trend really is safe or dangerous. I could easily have told you about the 4000 chemicals in a cigarette and the direct link to a long list of medical conditions, including the over 500,000 deaths per year related to smoking. The juul has about five different chemicals, including nicotine. Unfortunately, based on polling, many teenagers did not know their Crème Brulee flavored juul actually contained nicotine. It is certainly promoted as an alternative to smoking cigarettes by the manufacturer and their mission is stated to eliminate cigarette smoking in adults. The problem is that even though their target may be adults, teenagers are using them all across the country.

Nicotine is a stimulant. We live in a hyper-stimulated world. Do we really want to be chewing our caffeinated gum, sipping on a cup of coffee, and juuling all at the same time? What is all this stimulation doing to our mental health, sleep patterns, our hearts and our brains? The short answer is that we just do not know. We do know that juuling and vaping might expose you to things like lead and other chemicals. I don’t have to tell you that you shouldn’t eat lead, and you should probably assume that if you shouldn’t eat it, you likewise should not smoke it. Most experts will admit that if you do currently smoke, switching to vaping or juuling is likely a safer option… but the safest advice is to not get addicted at all.

Dr. Brian Richardson is an Urologist and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Jackson Hospital and Clinic.

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