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The Juul Trap

Written by Mikaela Tang

Since 2015, the trend to use Juuls has been skyrocketing in high schools across America. A Juul is a type
of e-cigarette that resembles a USB.1 Although some teens and young adults are aware that Juuls are “bad,” with
lack of in-depth research, most of them are unaware of the extent to which the chemicals in Juuls negatively
impact their physiological and neurological health. The little information many teens and young adults know
about the contents of Juuls make them think they are merely inhaling harmless flavored vapor. 2 In reality, the
vapor is filled with irritants, toxins, and nicotine. For instance, Juuls contain Acrylonitrile – a poisonous liquid
used to make plastics, adhesives and synthetic rubber – which may be lead to an increased risk of lung and
prostate cancer.3 Additionally, a striking 63% of teens and young adults that use Juuls do not even know that the
product contains nicotine.2 The harmful contents of the ever-trending Juul brings up concerns of medical experts
since the adolescent brain is vulnerable – continuing to develop until around the age of twenty-five.
The vapor and all of the Juul’s harmful contents including nicotine are contained in its pod. According to
the National Center for Health Research, each Juul pod is 5% nicotine. This percentage is nearly a two-fold
increase in comparison to the nicotine concentration in other similar devices such as the Blu e-cig cartridge (2.4%
nicotine).4 A single Juul pod’s nicotine content is also equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. The large nicotine
content per pod therefore intensifies and accelerates the risk of addiction, hooking Juul users within one week.
According to Dr. Jonathan Philip Winickoff, M.D., "you can inhale a whole package worth of nicotine without
even thinking twice."5
As supported by numerous brain studies, Business Insider’s article explains that nicotine’s effects target
the prefrontal cortex, influencing emotional control, decision making, and impulse regulation. Brain studies of
adolescents also suggest the reduced performance on tasks involving memory and attention. This is because
nicotine changes the way synapses form, which are responsible for learning and retaining memory. Therefore,
because adolescent brains build synapses faster than adult brains, adolescents are more vulnerable and at-risk of
severe nicotine addiction. Dr. Nicholas Chadi, M.D., a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, claims
that these brain modifications also make adolescents more likely to try other drugs by increasing their sensitivity
and impulsivity to other drugs. This, in turn, occurs due to the neurological changes that modify the brain’s
reward center, causing the brain to become “nicotine-hungry.” Therefore, nicotine acts as a gateway drug, priming
the brain so other drugs such as cocaine and heroin are more rewarding. On top of that, Business Insider’s article
also restates The Lancet’s (medical journal) findings regarding how nicotine addiction is ranked higher than both
alcohol and barbiturate (central nervous depressants) addictions. Dr. Nicholas Chadi believes nicotine is even
more addictive than cocaine.6
Overall, teens and young adults should be aware of the detrimental effects that Juuls have on our health.
Besides the known detrimental effects of Juuls, according to an article by Shape Magazine, adolescents also put
themselves at risk by not knowing what they may be inhaling due to the little regulation around e-cigarettes (i.e.
knockoffs and trading Juul pods). Dr. Winickoff claims: “It's almost like you're playing Russian Roulette with
your brain."5 Therefore, with its known negative impacts on the prefrontal cortex – emotion, decision-making, and
impulsivity – and the unknown contents that may exist within the Juul, people, especially adolescents, who have

11 Robinson, Melia. “How a Startup behind the 'IPhone of Vaporizers' Reinvented the e-Cigarette and Generated $224 Million in Sales in a Year.” Business
Insider, Business Insider, 21 Nov. 2017,
22 Truth Initiative. “JUUL e-Cigarette Craze Highlights the Dangers of Flavored Tobacco.” Truth Initiative, Truth Initiative, 23 Apr. 2018,
33 “Acrylonitrile.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
44 Fraga, John-Anthony. “The Dangers of Juuling.” National Center for Health Research, National Center for Health Research, 21 Dec. 2018,
5 5
Mateo, Ashley. “People Are Freaking Out About Juul-Here's What Doctors Think of It.” Shape Magazine,
Shape Magazine, 15 Nov. 2018,
66 Brodwin, Erin. “Experts Are Calling out a Vape Pen with 'Scary' Nicotine Levels That Teens Love - Here's How It Affects the Brain.” Business Insider,
Business Insider, 19 Apr. 2018,
not used cigarettes should not use Juuls. All in all, not using Juuls will keep people from falling into the “nicotine
trap” – suffering through the consequences of nicotine addiction.