Virginia’s Response to Teens’ Juuling Addiction

By: M. Randell Scism

We all know somebody who has a Juul, or some other type of alternative nicotine product. Sometimes, this person is trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. The goal of e-cigarettes is to get people who are addicted to cigarettes to switch to e-cigarettes without enticing non-smokers to try them.[1]This is a difficult task, as there is a rapid growth in the number of teenagers vaping, when traditional cigarette use is at an all-time low.[2]The Juul is especially popular among children and young adults, with a USB-like design and ability to smoke it almost anywhere – even indoors. The teenage usage of Juuls have become a national epidemic.[3]Each flavored Juul pod contains about the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes,[4]and the easy accessibility to smoke the Juul means that pods are used much quicker than a traditional pack of cigarettes. Studies have shown that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke combustible cigarettes later.[5]A survey of adolescent drug use found that 11% of twelfth graders, 8.2% of tenth graders, and 3.5% of eighth graders had vaped nicotine in the previous 30 days, and Juul has been invesitgated by the Federal Drug Administration to determine where the company has intentionally marketed its devices to youth.[6]Vaping has increased eighty percent among high schoolers and fifty percent among middle schoolers since 2017.[7]

Horror Stories

Juul pods contain an e-liquid that is 5% of nicotine by volume, which is more than twice the concentration of nicotine in other similar e-cigarettes.[8]Studies of adolescents’ brains who began smoking at a young age show reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex.[9]Maxwell Burger, a twenty-two year old, developed an addiction to Juul in 2015 and by 2017 he was taking puffs of his Juul every ten minutes, going through two cartridges a day.[10]In July of 2017, Burger suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, which required three brain surgeries and more than 100 days in the hospital and left him with left-side paralysis, speech impairment, and a 50% loss of vision in both eyes.[11]Further, an eighteen-year-old college freshman in Florida who vaped one Juul pod every two days, for a year suffered from a collapsed lung .[12]Doctors are seeing very measurable damage in a very short period of time from Juuls and other types of e-cigarettes.[13] Medical experts and federal health officials have even warned the public regarding the dangers of vaping, stating that the number of people with severe lung illness linked to vaping more than doubled to 450 possible cases in thirty-three different states with the number of deaths rising to five.[14]

Virginia’s Response

Virginia is one of sixteen states taking steps to raise the age of purchasing tobacco from eighteen to twenty-one.[15]In February of this year, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2748.[16]The bill amended the law “relating to purchase, possession, and sale of tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products” to include those under the age of twenty-one.[17]This bill passed the House of Delegates in a 62-32 vote and passed the Senate in a 32-7 vote.[18]Delegate Christopher Stolle stated that the bill was a “common-sense approach to address this escalating public health concern.”[19]Their goal is to stop teens from ever having a nicotine addiction by not allowing them to buy e-cigarettes (or traditional tobacco products) until their brains are more developed and they are able to perform better decision-making with less peer pressure.

The Future

There have been many responses to what this new law means for the future of e-cigarettes and Juuls. Juul states that they are completely on board with raising the age to 21, but it is common for tobacco companies to get behind legislation that looks reasonable, but within that legislation, there are bad policies that undermine good tobacco control policy.[20]In fact, raising the age to 21 in this way could actually prohibit local governments from passing measures that could alter teen use, such as banning flavored tobacco.[21]There are also questions as to the actual enforcement measures. The Virginia law punishes only retailers, not tobacco companies, with a small fines, $2,500 for three violations.[22]It is unclear whether this will just result in teens getting tobacco a different way or whether retailers will actually take the new law seriously. Supporters hope that passing the law will ultimately reduce the number of young people who start smoking,[23]but only time will tell whether or not the raised age will actually have an effect on Virginia’s teens.

[1]Matt Richtel & Sheila Kaplan, Did Juul Lure Teenagers and Get ‘Customers for Life’?, N.Y.

Times (Aug. 27, 2018),https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/science/Juul-vaping-teen-marketing.html.

[2]Casey Leins, Virginia Raises Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21, U.S. News(July 1, 2019), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2019-07-01/virginia-raises-tobacco-purchasing-age-to-21.

[3]Monique Calello, While Teen Cigarette Smoking Hits Record Low in Virginia, E-Cig Use Rises, News Leader (Nov. 15, 2018), https://www.newsleader.com/story/news/2018/11/15/teen-cigarette-smoking-hits-record-low-virginia-Juul-e-cig-vape-fda-cdc/2011547002/

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Matt Richtel & Sheila Kaplan, Did Juul Lure Teenagers and Get ‘Customers for Life’?, N.Y.

Times (Aug. 27, 2018),https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/science/Juul-vaping-teen-marketing.html.

[7]Lia Tabackman, It’s Official: Northam Signs Bill to Raise Virginia’s Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21, WTVR–Rich. (Feb. 14, 2019), https://wtvr.com/2019/02/14/virginia-house-and-senate-vote-to-raise-age-to-buy-tobacco-vapor-products/.

[8]John-Anthony Fraga, The Dangers of Juuling, Nat’l Ctr. For Health Res.(Last VisitedSept. 8, 2019), http://www.center4research.org/the-dangers-of-Juuling/.

[9]Id.

[10]Kenrick Cai, Teen’s Two-Pod A Day Juul Addiction Caused Massive Stroke, Lawsuit Says, Forbes(July 18, 2019), https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrickcai/2019/07/18/teen-two-pod-a-day-Juul-addiction-caused-massive-stroke-lawsuit-vaping-e-cigarettes/#7a2c3dac6ace.

[11]Id.

[12]Caitlin O’Kane, Teens Are Being Hospitalizaed for Lung Damage After Vaping – “It’s Mind-Boggling,” Doctor Says, CBS News(Aug. 13, 2019), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/teens-hospitalized-for-lung-damage-after-vaping-e-cigarettes-Juul-health-risks/.

[13]Id.

[14]Matt Richtel & Denise Grady, Cases of Vaping-Related Lung Illness Surge, Health Officials Say, N.Y.

Times (September 11, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/06/health/third-death-vaping-related-disease.html.

[15]Nick Boykin, Age for Buying Tobacco, Nicotine Products in Virginia is Now 21, News 3(July 1, 2019), https://wtkr.com/2019/07/01/age-for-buying-tobacco-nicotine-products-in-virginia-is-now-21/.

[16]H.B. 2748, 2019 Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Va. 2019).

[17]Id.

[18]Lia Tabackman, It’s Official: Northam Signs Bill to Raise Virginia’s Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21, WTVR–Rich. (Feb. 14, 2019), https://wtvr.com/2019/02/14/virginia-house-and-senate-vote-to-raise-age-to-buy-tobacco-vapor-products/.

[19]Id.

[20]Id.

[21]Id.

[22]Jacob Rosenberg, Juul’s Campaign to Raise the Tobacco Age Is More Complicated Than It Seems, Mother Jones (Aug. 22, 2019), https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/08/juuls-campaign-to-raise-the-tobacco-age-is-more-complicated-than-it-seems/.

[23]Tim Dodson, New Minimum Tobacco Age Takes Effect in Virginia, Bristow Herald Courier (July 1, 2019), https://www.heraldcourier.com/news/new-minimum-tobacco-age-takes-effect-in-virginia/article_9d7ea48c-4b6a-51f7-8c71-9b624afbec52.html.

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