Juul of Denial

By Nancy Black

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” I was just a wee child of 15 when I embraced that famous cigarette advertising campaign for Virginia Slims. I was young, invincible and could do anything I wanted in life. Those ads told me so. They showed the women of olden days, hunched over wash buckets, ironing boards, etc., and being dominated by men. Those photos were juxtaposed with photos of modern women, wearing pantsuits, having jobs and smoking cigarettes with pride. 

That was 40 years ago. I still smoke. And I know I am lucky to still be alive.

I have tried everything throughout the years to stop smoking: cold turkey, staples in my ears, hypnosis. I even went to the Schick Center in the 80s. It was an expensive place where they put those wishing to quit smoking in small rooms filled with ashtrays of all shapes and sizes overflowing with cigarette butts. Clients were seated in front of a smoke-stained mirror, which had pictures of healthy lungs vs. black lungs taped all around the edges. Then, an electric shock device was attached to your wrist. The instructions for the six-week course were to smoke cigarettes non-stop for one hour each week, while watching yourself in the mirror and getting shocked every time you took a drag. Even that didn’t work.

It made me sick and disgusted with myself, but I kept on smoking. Same with the acupressure ear staples, and nicotine patches or gum. I just really start to freak out internally and lose faith in myself every time I try to stop smoking. “Cigarettes are my only real friend,” my nicotine-addicted mind convinces me.

Now I am worried about the next generation of impressionable people being introduced to a “new” way of smoking. Gone is the rugged Marlboro Man (he died of lung cancer). The new stud on the scene is a sleeker and more modern looking specimen of what cool looks like. His name is JUUL (or any other similar electronic nicotine delivery system on the market). 

I have friends and family members that never used to smoke cigarettes who now “smoke” a JUUL. If you’re not familiar with the electronic device, it’s about the size of a regular cigarette, but it is thin, plastic and shaped like a rectangle instead. It delivers nicotine directly into the body when users draw on the mouthpiece, similar to how cigarette smokers smoke. Each JUUL requires nicotine cartridges to be replaced when empty, which guarantees an increase in profits for the makers of the product for generations to come. 

JUULs seem like the perfect answer for 21st century smokers: no second hand smoke, no messy ashtrays, no carbon monoxide being inhaled. So, hundreds of thousands of old smokers and new customers are trying, and buying, the product. But once they try it, they become addicted. That is what happens with addictive substances. Even when you don’t want to become an addict, you become one. And, though JUULs don’t contain cancer causing carbon monoxide, they contain plenty of nicotine, which is also bad for human bodies. 

In JUUL’s defense, their website states: “JUUL Labs’ mission is to eliminate cigarettes. JUUL products are intended for adult smokers who want to switch from combustible cigarettes. These alternatives [Juuls] contain nicotine, which has not been shown to cause cancer but can create dependency. We believe that these alternatives are not appropriate for people who do not already smoke.”

According to every reliable website I visited, though, nicotine is defined as a toxic alkaloid poison. It is both a stimulant and a depressant that causes narrowing of the blood vessels, increases heart rates and is highly addictive. Bottom line? Nicotine is bad — whether it is in a traditional tobacco cigarette or delivered through an electronic device. I fear this generation of new electronic smokers will look back in 40 years, like I am now, and regret their decision to start puffing on an electronic cigarette. That is, if they are still alive.