Is Juuling actually that bad for you if you don’t do it a lot?
Great question! There’s a lot of confusion about e-cigarettes (including Juuls) and just how unhealthy they are for teens. The truth is that vaping hasn’t been around long enough for us to fully understand how it affects people’s health in the long term. However, we DO know that nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigs can affect how your brain develops, damage your lungs, and more. Even though e-cigs have been promoted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, they’re still potentially unhealthy and dangerous—especially to teens.
Let’s break down why.
When the liquid in e-cigs is heated, it turns into an aerosol that can be inhaled. This aerosol isn’t harmless. In general, it has a base of propylene or glycerol, chemicals to add flavor, and nicotine. Sometimes, it also has heavy metals like lead and ultrafine particles, which can lead to lung disease.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical that comes from tobacco and can change how your brain develops.
This is because brains aren’t done growing until you’re around 25 years old. Until then, drugs like nicotine can have an even bigger impact on how your brain works. It especially affects the area of your brain that deals with decision making, learning, impulse control, and other things that are necessary to do well in school and in your career. Nicotine can also lead to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Even if you quit vaping later in life, these changes last much longer, maybe forever.
Keep in mind that e-cig companies intentionally market to young people using flavors like mint, bubblegum and pineapple. When teens become addicted to their products early, it helps e-cig companies make a profit. Look past the fun flavors—e-cigs have a LOT of nicotine in them. One Juul pod has the same amount of nicotine as two packs of cigarettes!
Accidentally swallowing the liquid in Juul pods or other vape cartridges (or getting it on your skin, or in your eye) can cause nicotine poisoning. If you’ve come into contact with the liquid, pay attention for nicotine poisoning symptoms like vomiting, sweating, dizziness, increased heart rate, lethargy, seizures, and difficulty breathing.
Because your brain is still growing and learning, it’s also easier to become addicted to nicotine (or other substances).
Even if you don’t vape much right now, you may slowly find yourself vaping more and more often. Over time, people who are addicted need more and more nicotine to get the same effect. This is called building tolerance. When you can’t vape, you might get fidgety, irritated, anxious and stressed. Concentrating for long periods of time, such as at school or work, can feel impossible as you get distracted and feel like you HAVE to take a break to go vape. You may have already noticed that people who vape a lot need to Juul as often as every hour, or sneak hits during the day at school.
On top of all of this, we don’t have very good addiction treatments for teens, which can make quitting vaping even harder. Some studies have even shown that vaping can lead to smoking cigarettes, which have a whole host of other dangerous health effects.
So, what does all this mean? To stay mentally and physically healthy, avoid vaping altogether.
To help quit, think about why you vape in the first place. Do you like the way it makes you feel? Do you enjoy vaping with friends? Think about what you can do instead when you’re tempted by a Juul. Drink some water or tea, chew gum, run or walk around the block, or do a few deep breathing exercises to help you calm down. You could also try asking your friends to quit with you, or to not vape when you’re around.
Talk to someone you trust (like a family member, counselor or doctor) about your decision, so they can help you come up with a plan and stick with it.
ABOUT YOU ASKED IT
You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we answer a lot of questions. Topics range from nutrition to pregnancy prevention, and everything in between. Now, we’re bringing these questions back to you with our weekly advice column, You Asked It. Got a question? Holler at us in the comments, send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “You Asked It” in the subject line.
This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.
Missed a “You Asked It” post? Click on “You Asked it” under Topics.