• Claire Wu

Public health professor says Juul does more good than harm

Updated: May 12

Northeastern adopted a smoke-free policy back in 2013 for the better of the university population, but that is not stopping the latest vaping trend from spreading across campus. The university is still struggling to provide a safe and healthy environment, while many students, unwilling to quit, are trying out Juuls. Second-year electrical engineering student Yi-En Wu is one of them.


“I use it because I want to try it, it’s kind of fun since I’ve never tried it before,” said Wu. “Most people around me all Juul, so why not?”


Juul is an electrical cigarette that had gained popularity around a year ago by its sleek design and variety of nicotine flavors. Juul was promoted as a safer alternative to smoking. It was created to help adult smokers to stop using cigarettes. However, adult smokers aren’t the only customers now. With the understanding of Juul being safer, there are more young people who had never smoked before began to use Juul as well.  


As Juul’s popularity among youths increases, more students can be seen vaping around the campus or even in indoor areas as there is no clear rule that restricts vaping. Christopher Hughes, assistant director of the Occupational Safety Programs at the Environmental Health & Safety Department, said while Northeastern has a smoking policy, it merely discusses cigarette smoking. “Vaping is implied, but not actually listed out yet,” Hughes said. He said that the department is currently in the process of updating the policy to include vaping.


“I think a lot of it could be culture, so somethings become popular over time, that there’s a misconception that it’s not harmful or anything, but there are still studies out there that have shown that it is the same as cigarette smoking,” said Hughes.


Despite the controversies, there are experts who hold a different opinion. Though many have raised concerns about youth becoming addicted to Juul, on the other hand, there are many adult smokers who have successfully quit smoking using the Juul.


“I think the reason why Juul is so effective for people trying to quit smoking is that it does deliver nicotine in the same way as a cigarette,” said Michael Siegel, a public health professor of community health sciences from Boston University.


Siegel explained people are getting the nicotine hit that they’re used to until they’re able to substitute for cigarettes. And though they’re still getting the nicotine, the smokers would still be “quitting smoking.”


“They’re not smoking because Juul does not have any tobacco in it and it doesn’t produce any smoke,” said Siegel. Without combustion and tobacco, smokers aren’t getting any of the chemicals and carcinogens that are in tobacco smoke. Smokers are only getting the nicotine, which is safer than inhaling both the nicotine and chemicals.


Seeing the benefits Juul brings, Siegel said the question is how to balance those? How to restrict the product so it doesn’t get into the hands of youth, but at the same time keep it available for adult smokers who are using it to quit smoking.


“Not the ideal situation,” Siegel said, “but on the other hand, I think it’s a lot better than what we used to have, where you’d walk in a cloud of smoke, so in that sense, I think it’s a better situation.”


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