Opinion: JUULs don't deserve immense backlash

If you’ve ever set foot on a college campus, chances are you’ve seen someone JUULing. The ubiquitous vice is as common as smoking was in the naïve days of America’s past, and within the past year has taken the college world by storm. Needless to say, the phenomenon is a controversial one.

There’s been much hand wringing over the alleged risks and dangers given the addictive nature of nicotine. Just last month, The Daily Gamecock dedicated an entire spread to the JUUL, taking great pains to emphasize that the JUUL is, in fact, an addictive vice.

As a JUUL user myself, I couldn’t help but feel a bit patronized. 

Of course the JUUL is addictive — it contains nicotine. Did anyone ever really doubt this? Pointing out nicotine is addictive is a bit like pointing out fast food is fattening. Everyone is aware of the fact, but those who choose to use it likely don’t care. 

Prior to JUULing, I was a cig fiend. At my peak (or nadir) I was smoking roughly half a pack of Marlboro Reds a day. I eventually started buying cartons in order to avoid constant trips to the gas station.

I knew I needed to quit, but wasn’t prepared to do so without a substitute. Nicotine, after all, was a staple of my life at that point. The JUUL filled the gap left by cigarettes and enabled me to stop smoking. There are plenty of others like me who were able to quit a deadly drug thanks to the JUUL and e-cigarettes. 

Granted, most of the people who JUUL at USC didn’t start out as smokers. For whatever reason, they decided to effectively abuse something meant as a smoking cessation device. In the process, many have become hopeless addicts. 

While young people becoming addicted to nicotine isn't ideal, I don’t think it warrants the kind of pearl clutching we’ve seen. I will go out on a limb and make the bold assertion that nicotine itself is not really harmful, and an addiction that’s not from traditional forms of nicotine use — like smoking or dipping — isn’t that awful. 

The real dangers of cigarettes are extraneous to the nicotine. Nicotine isn’t known to cause cancer, emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis, which are associated with long-term smoking. 

The most dangerous thing about nicotine is its potential to get you addicted to tobacco, the real culprit behind smoking-related deaths. The JUUL eliminates the tobacco and leaves you with a vice that is better than smoking cigarettes. This isn’t to say nicotine itself is harmless — it’s not — but the drug is downright benign compared to tobacco. 

The social good that the JUUL does in helping people quit a vice as deadly as smoking offsets the harm caused by hooking college kids on nicotine. In the end, the JUUL doesn’t deserve the backlash it has received. 

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