You take my breath away

Potential JUUL ban could be a breath of fresh air


Anya Panday

It’s no secret that teenagers around America have a vaping problem. Some may say it’s become somewhat of an epidemic. Teens around the country are slowly getting addicted to vaping, and it’s not uncommon to see middle schoolers not-so-discreetly trying to get a hit off their mango-kiwi vape from the inside of their sleeves. Due to the alarming rates of vaping adolescents, as well as the implications of various health issues that vaping may cause, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pursuing the idea of banning JUUL  — a leading e-cigarette company.

The FDA has alleged that JUUL purposefully markets its e-cigarette products to teens. Whether or not this rings true, the amount of teens who regularly use e-cigarettes is concerning. An estimated 1.72 million high school-aged teenagers reported using e-cigarettes, and 43.6% of those students also reported using their vapes at least 20 out of 30 days a month. These already concerning numbers are rising yearly, with 800,000 new teens trying e-cigarettes annually.

99% of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical that has detrimental effects on developing brains. When you develop memories or learn new things, your brain forms strong synapses to help retain that information. Studies suggest that nicotine can affect the efficiency of how these synapses form. Additionally, nicotine can also cause complications in teens’ mental health. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and when teenagers become dependent on nicotine, the withdrawal is often mentally and physically intense.

Ironically, the most common reason for teenagers to begin vaping is to cope with stress. Being a high-schooler is hard, and many teens struggle to balance school, work, extracurriculars and friends. Teens carry a lot of stress, and many will try to relax in any way possible. However, vaping is not an effective stress-reliever. Vaping has been linked to increased feelings of stress and anxiety. Both the dependency your body develops on nicotine and the way the chemicals interact with your brain can induce anxiety in teenagers.

This creates a never-ending cycle of feeling stressed, vaping to relieve said stress and then getting more stress from vaping. Not only is this harmful in the sense that it creates more stress, but this can cause teenagers to branch out into new ways to relieve the additional stress from vaping, including drugs, self-harm and other risky behavior.

Banning JUUL would be a big step toward breaking this cycle of harm for teenagers, but it may also provide considerable benefits for Park. Park might see increased attendance, as fewer students skip class to vape and increased academic success as student well-being improves. Of course, banning JUUL won’t eliminate the issue of teenagers using vapes, but hopefully, it will make e-cigarettes harder for teenagers to access. 

However, Park shouldn’t rely on JUUL getting banned to fix these issues. Increasing access to genuine mental health resources will play a much more significant part in reducing vaping, as opposed to banning JUUL. If teenagers have more resources and feel more supported in their struggle with mental health, they won’t have to turn to vaping in the first place. Banning JUUL may be a step toward solving e-cigarette addiction among teens, but it’s the first of many steps toward a bigger issue: teenage mental health.