Cigarette Alternatives – Are They Targeting A New Generation of Smokers?

Parker Rhee, Reporter

April 1, 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Health Cigarette Act, which banned tobacco companies from advertising on T.V., and dealt a significant blow to the tobacco industry. As time approaches that historic anniversary, however, more and more voices are starting to express concern that the fall of cigarettes only opened a vacuum in the tobacco industry that has allowed a new ‘king’ to step in: e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes work on a simple principal: instead of burning tobacco leaves, which emits thousands of chemicals, many of which are proven to cause cancer, whereas countless other by products, such as tar, coat the lungs and impair breathing, e-cigarettes vaporize a solution containing nicotine, which is then inhaled by the user. It is claimed by many that this is a much safer method of getting a nicotine ‘hit’. Because of these claims, e-cigarettes are supposed to be used by adults who are already addicted to regular cigarettes, with the logic is that they are safer than regular cigarettes, and therefore beneficial to those who basically have nothing to lose by switching. For a long time, e-cigarettes were, figuratively speaking, small potatoes. And then came Juul.

Founded in 2015, Juul revolutionized the e-cigarette industry. While previous models of e-cigarettes were large, bulky, and cumbersome with a cringe inducing design, Juuls were, and are, sleek and modern. They have been compared to iPhones in their sleekness. With the rise of Juul, e-cigarettes took off. Ever since then, their rise has been exponential. But unfortunately, the demographics where most of Juul’s growth is taking place are not the ones Juul was supposed to be targeting.

One of the biggest questions Americans, and the world at large, are asking themselves is whether or not Juul has been deliberately targeting underage smokers in the same way tobacco companies did decades ago. For example, in one of Juul’s marketing campaigns, young models are shown having fun using the product. Some think that this shows that Juul was marketing to young people.

“I think you’re targeting younger people when you’re making these fruity smells. One thing that’s been very eye opening for me is that you can see them popping up, these shops that sell Juul’s, 20 feet from schools. Just take for example the one at the bottom of the hill, and at Arnold Burton, they have one right across the street,” said Principal Wimbush.

Most scrutinized, however, are Juul’s apparent claims that their products have little or no effects on users health.

Wimbush stated, “You typically hear about people who have been smoking for 20 years getting lung cancer, we’re seeing where Juuling is having that immediate impact… so that has kind of made the severity between the two [Juuling versus smoking cigarettes] more evident.”

One of the major problems with Juul in its early years was the lack of government oversight over the products. For example, the FDA did not even secure its oversight over the products until 2016, over a year after Juul was founded, and it was only within the last year that the CDC began establishing links between Juuling and serious illnesses of the lungs.

“I think we’re in a different boat now from even three months ago, now that we’re seeing this epidemic of students who are getting violently ill from Juuling,” said Principal Wimbush.