By Emmy Liederman
He had never smoked a cigarette in his life, but one freshman finance major still felt the need to buy a Juul — an electronic smoking device that utilizes disposable pods containing fluid with high amounts of nicotine — during his senior year of high school. Each Juul pod contains the nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes, and he began to go through one pod each day.
Within a year, the habit went from a casual stress reliever to a five-dollar-a-day addiction.
Similar to many other students, the male student, who spoke to The Signal on the condition of anonymity, may now find it harder to light up on campus.
On Nov. 29, the Committee on Student and Campus Community held an open forum to gauge students’ thoughts on creating a smoke-free campus. This conversation was not just about cigarettes. The CSCC conducted a qualtrics survey asking students about the possibility of banning Juuls. Although the CSCC is starting the conversation, it is not advocating for any particular change in policy.
“There are different models for a tobacco-free campus, but that’s way down the road,” said CSCC Co-Chair Margaret Martinetti. “We are currently analyzing all of the data from the 1,300 plus responses we received to the qualtrics survey.”
Once CSCC has completed analyzing the survey data, Martinetti says that the committee plans to start a next a discussion about the next steps for potential policy change.
Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science Antonio Scarpati acknowledged the controversy behind changing the College’s smoking policy.
“Before any serious consideration of proposing a policy change, we’re obliged to become more informed and seek input from the campus community,” Scarpati said. “This is a complicated issue, as we’re still learning about the still learning about the wide variety of tobacco products and usage.”
The Juul is designed for portability, with a small, thin design that makes it resemble a flash drive. Juuls are intended for adult smokers as an alternative to cigarettes, according to Juul Labs’ official website. However, a product intended to curb addiction has become an addiction in itself as Juuls increase in popularity among high school and college students.
The company may now be realizing that its goal of ending addiction has been lost through the product’s growing popularity among young people. As of Aug. 23, the minimum age for purchasing a Juul was raised to 21 years, and Juul Labs uses advanced age verification technology to enforce this policy, according to its website.
“I definitely think that young kids using it outweighs the smokers who are trying to quit,” the anonymous freshman finance major said.
Jennifer O’Neill, a sophomore history and political science double major and student representative of the CSCC, mentioned at the open forum that if it weren’t for student input, the committee wouldn’t have been aware of the Juul trend.
The invisibility of the product allows students to use the Juul in places where traditional vaping would never be permitted.
“I sometimes Juul in class,” the anonymous freshman finance major said. “It’s kind of funny when the teacher’s back is turned and then you do it.”
As of Nov. 1, New Jersey state law has also increased the minimum purchasing age of all tobacco products to 21, according to NJ.gov. That being said, the purchasing age in the majority of states is still 18 years old. Smoker’s Express in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where many students purchase their Juul products, is only a five minute drive from the College.
Joe Hadge, assistant director of the College’s Drug and Alcohol Education Program, said that few students have come to him about vaping, and acknowledged that he was also unfamiliar with the Juul trend.
“Many of the flavorings found in vapes have been approved for ingestion by the (Food and Drug Administration), but have not been studied for inhalation,” Hadge said. “Some vapes have significantly more nicotine than others. The impact of vaping is not as clearly seen as with other substances as we are still learning.”
The CSCC’s discussion for a tobacco-free campus was also attended by students who don’t use nicotine products, but feel that banning them from campus would do more harm than good.
“Smoking is happening no matter what,” said Joshua Goikhman, a junior English major. “I don’t think that this is an avenue that will make anyone better off. I think it’s just wasting everyone’s time. It is costly and time-consuming to change policy.”
Since the damaging effects of cigarettes often receives media attention, many believe that the Juul glamorizes smoking the same way that cigarettes did in the past.
“I think a lot of people use (cigarettes) to look cool,” said Isabella Donnelly, a freshman sociology major. “But, there is now a stigma associated with cigarettes. You definitely get judged a lot more for smoking a cigarette than for having a Juul.”
Although many believe that the Juul has become an unnecessary addiction, some claim that it also has positive effects from the mellow feeling experienced by users shortly after smoking.
“I Juul because it gives me a slight buzz and it personally helps me cope with anxiety,” said Briana Iannuzzi, an open options humanities and social sciences major. “The feeling is a light head rush that lasts two to five minutes.”
Associate Director of Campus Security Bill Straniero agreed that there is not enough information about the effects of vaping, but he also acknowledged that it may have a negative impact on users.
“I believe that anything foreign you put in your body such as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and vaping smoke are detrimental to your health,” Straniero said. “I wouldn’t include the words ‘healthier alternative’ to any conversation involving the use of vaporizers.”
School officials and law enforcement are not the only entities expressing these concerns — those who use the Juul on a daily basis are also unsure of what they are consuming.
“The Juul is a relatively new device, so no one is completely sure what chemicals they are putting into their body, which I’m sure cannot be good,” Iannuzzi said.
Although the Juul was introduced with the intention of ending cigarette addiction, it has also glamorized a new form of nicotine consumption for a generation that was largely moving away from the substance.
“My whole life, I have never felt good about cigarettes, Hadge said. “It’s the only legal product that when used as intended, harms and possibly kills. On one level, vaping could possibly be an improvement, but there is so much we don’t know because it has yet to be determined.”