The FDA is worried, why aren’t you?

Student exhales a cloud of vapor from an e-cig as he walks into Jeanmarie hall on Wednesday afternoon. (Garrett Finn)

Walking into Jeanmarie Hall, or through the Durick Library, or on the paths outside the 300’s townhouses you may see someone slowly exhaling vapor from their Juul. Electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigs,” like Juuls are everywhere.

Many e-cigs today are shaped like a flash drive, and produce a scentless vapor, making it a easy to discreetly smoke them without anyone turning their head. E-cigs are marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and as tools to help smokers quit using tobacco. But the concern now is that teens and young adults are being introduced to nicotine through e-cigs and developing addictions as a result.

But their rising popularity among American youth has caused the FDA to acknowledge an oversight by the regulatory agency, and issue a warning. “The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a trade off for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. in a recent statement.

Ari Kirshenbaum, a professor of psychology at Saint Michael’s who specializes in psychopharmacology, said he would like e-cigarettes to remain exclusively a cessation tool to help smokers quit, but is concerned that that’s not the case right now.

“The problem with e-cigarettes is that you can get dosages [of nicotine] that are way higher than anything you can find in a combustible tobacco product,” Kirshenbaum said. “The Juuls are a great example of that, and I think they’re encouraging a dependence on nicotine.” Juul is an electronic cigarette company that is currently at the forefront of the industry.

Kirshenbaum has designed a study for which he is recruiting participants, it will focus on developing a video game and exploring whether the gavmeplay performance of subjects is sensitive to the effects of nicotine. “By looking at the performance on this video game, can we know that someone has been using nicotine?” Kirshenbaum said. He will be using e-cigarette products over the course of this three year study.

E-cigarettes have become widely popular on college campuses, specifically Juuls, which can be bought at most gas stations. John Balling, a senior at Saint Michael’s says that he doesn’t know the exact risk of smoking a Juul, but he is dependent on it while doing schoolwork.

“I think juuling helps me focus with my school work, or at least that’s what I tell myself,” Balling said. “I’m sure it’s not true. I just can’t do work without a good buzz going.”

Balling said he has also noticed a rise in popularity of Juul and other e-cig usage around school and even among younger demographics. “It’s crazy to think how popular they have gotten through all ages. I see 14-15 year olds ripping them everywhere,” Balling said.