Jonah Jellesed

On Sept. 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a simple recommendation: “... [the] CDC recommends that you consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products.” This recommendation comes on the back of a summer of mysterious illnesses and deaths related to the use of vaping products.

According to the CDC, there are around “380 cases of lung illness reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory. Six deaths have been reported from six states.” 

This is a national issue. People are dying and health officials can’t even say what's exactly causing it. The consensus is that e-cigarettes and other vaping products must be responsible for this health crisis. One company in particular has come under increased scrutiny after this summer: Juul.

Juul Labs Inc. is a 4-year-old company based in San Francisco. Juul is a extremely large corporation that sells its products all over the country. According to Investopedia, Altria Group Inc. bought a 35% stake in Juul for $12.8 billion; this puts Juul’s market value at around $38 billion. 

Altria Group Inc. also owns Marlboro, according to Investopedia.

Juul has made its fortune on e-cigarettes that look like thumb drives. A mixture of chemicals, combined with tobacco, delivers a similar experience of smoking a cigarette without the negative consequences that come with them. Or at least that’s what they would tell you. Once you dive into the chemistry involved, the true nature of this 21st century technology becomes murky.

An approximate nicotine concentration conversion between Juul pods and cigarettes is one pod per pack of cigarettes. I know from watching people around me that it is easy to go through a Juul pod in one sitting if you aren’t careful. 

It’s hard to believe that Juuls are a safe alternative to cigarettes with so much nicotine still involved.  

The FDA agrees “the FDA has determined that JUUL has marketed its products as ‘modified risk tobacco products’ without an appropriate FDA order…” Juul legally isn’t allowed to claim that its product is a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The shadiest part of the Juul experience is the chemicals involved. 

Juul is a company that sells a product with virtually no long-term clinical studies backing up its safety. It’s uncharted territory. As a matter of fact, the FDA doesn’t even require companies like Juul to list all of the chemicals contained in the product. To me, that’s the scariest part of Juuls and vaping in general.

Vitamin E acetate is found in cannabis e-liquids. This compound, derived from Vitamin E, can be harmful to your lungs over a long period of time. As a matter of fact, this compound is being scrutinized as a possible cause of the health crisis this summer. There is no thorough research behind this compound’s effects on humans, so CDC health officials can’t say for certain that Vitamin E acetate is responsible for this summer's illnesses.

With all of the unknown risk and high levels of nicotine, it’s not a stretch to say that this is similar to the cigarette epidemic that we are just starting to get under control.

In effect, we are raising another generation of people to be dependent on nicotine. Big tobacco companies (largely responsible for the first cigarette epidemic) have adapted to the vaping revolution; all you have to do is look to Juul Labs Inc. to see this.

With a new generation of people in the United States becoming dependent on nicotine, we have to ask ourselves: have we really learned from the past?

Jonah Jellesed is a staff writer.

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(1) comment

joseph

Calm down. E-cigarettes are probably dangerous and they certainly deserve more scrutiny and study; however, tobacco products are even more dangerous and there is scientific proof of that. They are so deadly that 1,300 people die each day from cigarette smoking (see https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm) yet they are legal. Why is that?



People use E-cigarettes because they want to quick smoking. They are going from an extremely dangerous product (cigarettes) to a less dangerous product (E-cigarettes) in hopes of trying to quit a nicotine habit. Shouldn't they be allowed to do that?

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