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How JUULing Affects the Body MAG
aping has been taking the world by storm as an aid to quit smoking. One new vape pen in particular, the JUUL, has exploded in popularity, accumulating more than half of all e-cigarette sales in the U.S. Although JUULs provide a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, they are still harmful to the body, especially when used by adolescents.
The JUUL device is made up of two parts: the actual e-cigarette and the pod. A JUUL pod contains propylene glycol, glycerine, benzoic acid, flavoring (such as mango, cool mint, or creme brûlée) and roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The high nicotine content in a JUUL pod can deliver a “head high” when the device is used, adding pleasure to the overall experience. However, many JUUL owners use their vapes solely for recreational purposes and enjoyment rather than as an substitute for cigarettes. According to the JUUL website, “JUUL Labs was founded with the goal of improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by providing them with an easy to use vapor alternative to combustible cigarettes, containing a similar level of nicotine to make switching as easy as possible.” Even though JUULs and other e-cigs make it easier for some cigarette smokers to quit their bad habit, JUULing is not necessarily safe or healthy in itself.
Nicotine is notoriously one of the most addictive substances in existence, and its large dose within a JUUL pod is to blame for causing harm to the body. Short-term side-effects of vaping include mouth
dryness, dizziness, cough, dry eyes, increased airway resistance, chest pain, nosebleeds, vomiting, nausea, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. However, if the use of nicotine is sustained, its short-lived effects can develop into serious complications.
As with most addictive substances, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuit and releases dopamine. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, located in the anterior part of the frontal lobe, is responsible for inhibition, decision-making, and reasoning. This segment of the brain utilizes administrative control over emotions and impulses that surge from the middle of the brain. When nicotine enters the bloodstream via JUULing, large amounts of dopamine are released in the brain, producing an unnatural “high” that the brain is inexperienced in handling. Continued exposure to nicotine results in the desensitization of the dopamine receptors in the brain, and in turn increasing amounts of dopamine need to be released to reach the initial level of satisfaction. At this point, addiction is occurring, the brain has become fatigued, and significant chemical changes within the brain have transpired. The erosion of the prefrontal cortex gradually ensues, which essentially depletes a person’s willpower to regulate any desire to control JUULing habits.
The “head high” that occurs while JUULing is due not only to the aforementioned dopamine release in the brain, but also to the secretion of epinephrine. When nicotine enters the body, the adrenal glands are signaled to release the hormone epinephrine, stimulating the nervous system and increasing blood pressure and heart rate. As blood and oxygen are prevented from reaching target cells easily and efficiently, the body becomes progressively stressed, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke drastically.
Prolonged use of the JUUL can lead to complications concerning other body systems. Researchers from Brown University have linked nicotine use with heart disease. According to the National Institute of Health, “Nicotine poses several health hazards. There is an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorders. There is decreased immune response and it also poses ill impacts on the reproductive health. It affects cell proliferation, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and DNA mutation by various mechanisms which leads to cancer.” JUULing has also been linked to cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or “wet lung,” which causes inflammation and fluid accumulation in the lungs because of an allergic reaction to certain chemicals.
Although an individual must be 18 to purchase a JUUL, teens are gaining access to these vape pens through older friends or relatives. As a result, JUULing has become so prevalent that nearly one-fifth of adolescents have reported seeing JUULs used in their school, where the use of vaping devices is normally barred.
Adolescents who JUUL are even more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of nicotine. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, does not reach full maturity until the age of 25. Until this time, there is a lack of sophistication and complexity of thought and effective regulation of emotions occurring in the brain. When teens JUUL, the prefrontal cortex begins to erode before it even has the chance to fully develop. This can lead to some serious long-term brain development issues, such as declining memory and attention span and increasing chances of developing depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder. Moreover, because teenagers are even more susceptible to addiction, JUULing can lead to the abuse of cigarettes, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
In reality, JUULing is just another bad habit that leads to more trouble than it’s worth. If you ever encounter the opportunity to JUUL, please consider what you are doing to your body, even if it’s just “one hit.”
Maryland Heights, MO