No one warned me about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
When I started using Juul — the leading e-cigarette maker — three years ago, I was hooked by the familiar flavor of mint and the sleek, high-tech device that first gave me a quick buzz — and then an addiction I couldn’t shake. I was 14 years old.
We can’t let any more kids get trapped by these flavors, the way I was.
I never thought this device would threaten my health and take over my life, but it did. I became hooked, and so did my friends. We couldn’t stop. If an adult confiscated one of our Juuls, it didn’t matter. We could just share with somebody else. If our parents saw a Juul device in our rooms, it was no big deal. They look like flash drives, after all. We inhaled nicotine constantly, masked by the cooling flavor.
Vaping seemed like a harmless habit, a way to fit in with friends. But take it from me — there’s nothing harmless about nicotine addiction. I couldn’t sleep at night, had intense mood swings and became increasingly dehydrated. To buy my favorite mint pods, I wasted my hard-earned money from working three summers as a camp counselor. When my mom found and took away my Juul, it caused tremendous tension and I started to realize how addicted I was.
Now, I’m a recovering vaper. It’s hard — and Juul is still everywhere. They’re still in social media posts and in stores near my school. Juul says they’re going to stop selling kid-friendly flavors, but they are clinging to the menthol flavor which will become the new go-to flavor for so many of my friends.
If the administration exempts mint and menthol — or even just menthol — from the flavored e-cigarette ban, Juul will win and kids will lose. If lawmakers really care about our development and well-being, they’ll ban these flavors, too, and protect us from becoming the generation of e-smokers.
E-cigarettes threatened my health and complicated a critical chapter of my life. Juul won’t willingly give up menthol. It’s up to our leaders to stand up and show teens that our health matters more than Juul’s profits.