As a teenager in the 1980’s, my friends and I grew up knowing smoking was bad for our health. We knew it could cause cancer and addiction to nicotine. Did some of my friends take up smoking? Yes. Did some of them become addicted to smoking? Yes. But did they do so knowing the risks? I’d have to say by the late 1980’s, that yes, they had some idea, so they did so sparingly and knew it was not a good choice.
Now, we are parents, and our children and our friends’ children have unknowingly gotten addicted to nicotine due to deceptive advertising and targeting by JUUL Labs on a scale and in a way that we could not have imagined. We are now facing an epidemic far worse than our experimenting with smoking cigarettes in the 80’s.
As an almost 50-year-old woman, I now have teenagers of my own. Like other parents of my generation, I passed on my knowledge about the serious dangers of cigarette smoking to my kids, and because of this fact, my children and most of my friends’ children, didn’t take up the habit. As of 2015 though, this same demographic didn’t stand a chance when JUUL, Atria, and Phillip Morris USA, Inc. introduced their e-cigarettes into the market. These companies absolutely targeted teenagers with fun flavors and a cool designed conduit for vaping, all the while claiming that their e-cigarettes were less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
I have to say, I’m not a clueless parent. I’ve never been naïve enough to think that my children would never try things that were bad for them, so I watched and monitored and raised them carefully. Then, the e-cigarette or “JUULing” phenomenon came up out of nowhere. The companies who manufactured e-cigarettes disguised them to look like USB ports or pens or chargers, making them cool for kids and making parents oblivious to their presence in our homes for a long enough period of time that our kids got hooked. So many parents and teachers were clueless that the kids around us were becoming addicted to nicotine and ingesting horrific toxins.
As time went on, our teens became bolder with their use around adults, maybe because their cravings grew stronger or maybe because adults were told they didn’t have nicotine in them and were way safer than traditional cigarettes. Regardless, I remember first seeing seniors in high school throwing a vape pen to each other in the den and began seeing cartridges littered about that looked like the cover to a lead pencil container. Only as time went on did I learn that they were empty JUUL cartridges.
Over the last 5 years, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about JUULing, the e-cigarette industry and how they targeted teens with false and misleading advertising and fun flavors to get them addicted to their product. I cannot tell you how angry I am as a mother and as an attorney about what JUUL and Atria knowingly did to get my children’s generation addicted to an extremely harmful product whose dire side effects are only beginning to unfold.
A few of the facts that I’ve learned is that the number of vapers has increased significantly over the last few years. Prior to JUUL coming into existence and taking over approximately 75 percent of the market share, about seven million people reportedly used e-cigarettes. By 2018 that number had reason to over 41 million. Newer studies now estimate that in 2019, over 3.6 million American middle and high school children vaped.
What is frightening about this figure is that JUUL marketed e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking and put out cool flavors misleading kids to think that JUUL did not contain nicotine. Many studies have shown that e-cigarette users do not know what is in the products they are using; teens seem to be unaware that the products contain very much nicotine, if any at all, even though approximately 98.7 percent of all e-cigarette products sold at convenience stores, supermarkets and similar outlets do contain it.
These figures enrage me and should enrage you too!
As a parent, and as an attorney, I want to help inform teens and their families about the dangers of vaping. I want to help get the word out that we all can take action to stop this targeting of our children, and I want the company that is now reported to be worth about $56 billion to pay for what it has done to our youth and young adults.
Most people in my generation thought that the last go-round with big tobacco put an end to getting an unsuspecting audience majorly addicted to nicotine. We were wrong, and now I urge you to take a stand to once again put an end to yet another nicotine epidemic that likely has far worse consequences than smoking. The known and unknown toxins that people who vape are ingesting into their lungs is terrifying. The time to take action is now! To learn what you and your loved ones can do if they have gotten addicted to and/or have suffered illnesses from JUULing, please contact A Case for Women here.