Is it the size or the salts?
Teen vaping is yet again filling the news feed.
Juul vape pens single handedly being blamed as the device causing the ‘epidemic’ of teen vaping. Yet, what is interesting is that the statistics, if believable, do not back this up. We use the word believable, because there is a recently published article that claims the numbers of teen vapers may be wrong, (as in too low) because not all the teens that use juul, realize they are vaping.
Two things could be happening on here – 1) this new research is using a scientific euphemism for today’s teens are stupid, or 2) the stats are correct, but propaganda is needed to cast doubt on them.
A scapegoat is needed for the FDA to bring in the regulations they want, and the juul might just fit the bill.
The company that makes the juul remains under considerable heat from the FDA. So much so, that not only have they committed $30 million over 3 years to curbing youth vaping, they have now put out a ‘campaign’ to teach parents about their product.
A quick glimpse of the printed juul campaign shows two very simple posters – essentially what the product looks like, and then an explanation of what is in it, and what it does. The idea is to show parents what the devices look like and do their best to explain that these devices are for smokers that want to get away from the cigarettes. If you don’t smoke, then don’t vape is the core of the message.
What the campaign doesn’t do, is explain what nicotine salts are. They don’t give a deeper reason for using them in their devices, or that most vaping manufacturers don’t use nicotine salt e-liquid. That’s left up to the parents to find out. Which could be construed as not being totally honest, because if you don’t vape or smoke, (perhaps even if you do) nicotine e-liquid is nicotine e-liquid, isn’t? No. Regular e-liquid uses what is called freebase nicotine, basically pure, but very diluted nicotine and it is very easy to vaporize. Nicotine salt e-liquid – (in this case it means the addition of benzoic acid), allows for a stronger nicotine hit, but using a small vape pen. No more using huge devices to get that bigger hit. The company claims their devices are great for heavy smokers that have found regular e-liquid doesn’t satisfy their nicotine cravings.
There is nothing new about this: this is a common complaint of many heavy smokers trying to switch. They found the e-liquid was not strong enough. (Which is why we suggest you come in store and try out the e-liquid before you buy, (with the FDA mandated small fee) so you get the right level of nicotine for you.)
The addition of salts also makes for a smoother throat hit. Nicotine salts are said to be cheaper to produce, and the addition doesn’t affect the flavors as much as regular, freebase nicotine does. There is a concern that nicotine salt -e-liquid is more addictive than freebase e-liquid.
Note, all juul pods contain nicotine salt e-liquid, they do not produce a nicotine free variety. There are, according to some google searches, compatible nicotine free juul pods available.
So, as a parent that doesn’t smoke, or vape and has little information about either, here you have a device that can be hidden in the palm of your hand, is relatively inexpensive, doesn’t give you a harsh throat hit, has lovely flavors and one hell of a nicotine hit. Would you be concerned?
Now, assuming of course that the teens are vaping the genuine article and not some nicotine free clone, does the FDA have a point to highlight them?
Now we circle back to the article Vaping versus JUULing that believes the stats could be wrong. ‘Vaping held steady last year in high school students and declined in middle school kids, according to new government data, but some researchers are skeptical because the survey may have missed out on a booming e-cigarette brand.’ That’s right, they are talking about the juul. The article continues, ‘Research suggests some kids don't equate the trendy devices with other types of e-cigarettes.
Given that omission and the skyrocketing sales of Juul last year, the survey may be missing a big part of what's going on, said Jidong Huang, a Georgia State University researcher.’ From experience, kids know what they are doing. They may not know the consequences, but they know what they are doing. They know that juuling is vaping. Plus, could the boom in sales simply be adults buying the products? The article states that there was a massive drop of 800’000 less teens vaping in one year, and it is this part that has the experts skeptical. "But the level of vaping soared until 2016, when there was a puzzling and dramatic drop, from 16 percent to 11 percent of high school students. That translated to a decline in teen vapers from 3 million to 2.2 million in just one year." There could be several explanations for the sudden drop, one being the way the stats are measured, because if you vaped once in 30 days, you were considered a vaper, so perhaps the novelty has worn off, and less teens are trying vaping. Another possibility could be the teens were lying to the researchers, or as the researchers are implying, the kids have no idea they are vaping.
Remember though as you are reading this, smoking rates among teens are also continuing to fall.
If the stats are correct, and the teens do know what they are doing – the current situation is one where the rates of teen vaping and smoking are both falling, which would imply there is no ‘epidemic’ of teen vaping that has been caused by one single device. Adults are simply taking to a new device that they feel helps them transition away from smoking. This all sounds very positive.
So why the question at the start of this post, is it the salts or the size that have the FDA worried?
The answer, if the statistic as currently presented are true, is both.Here the FDA have a product that they can hold up and say – teens are using it– it has nicotine salts in, which could be more addictive, and can be hidden from parents. The FDA have found their bad boy of vaping, one that the anti-tobacco lobby can hold up and state, this could cause problems for teens. We won’t know for at least another year if the stats are incorrect and the teens genuinely don’t realize they are vaping, or if in fact the novelty has worn off, the stats are correct, and teenagers are losing interest in both smoking and vaping.
Sadly, it may be too late for the Juul by then, and we will have to see how the rest of us fare.