When leaving Elmer Holmes Bobst Library Library at night, I often step out only to be embraced by clouds of cigarette smoke — a sensation I’ve gotten used to since coming to NYU. The Food and Drug Administration recently stated its mission to cut down the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to lessen the addictive qualities of cigarettes and reduce the number of addicts overall. Sadly, I am afraid that these efforts will come a little too late. Students are already losing interest in cigarettes and making the switch to the new angsty, addictive and far less regulated trend: JUULing.
The FDA is proposing to reduce levels of nicotine in cigarettes to between 0.3 and 0.5 milligrams per cigarette, as opposed to the current levels of between 1.1 and 1.7. While this will help addicted adults quit, the FDA claims that these measures can prevent over 33 million people from smoking regularly by 2,100. The agency hopes that this means many students who experiment with cigarettes will not develop nicotine addictions. The FDA statement placed emphasis on how this reduction is to encourage already addicted adults to seek alternative forms of nicotine consumption, not for children to pursue them.
However, these measures may unintentionally push teens closer to the JUUL — a small, concealable e-cigarette — than they were before. JUULs are not new on campus, having come to prominence throughout this past year, but now we may be seeing more of them.
Many NYU students “hit the JUUL” in pursuit of the instantly gratifying head rush driven by the high concentration of nicotine. One JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, making the JUUL more cost effective as well — a pack of four pods costs just over $15, while a single pack of cigarettes costs a minimum of $13 in New York City. Overall, the JUUL is more attractive to college students and will soon be the most reliable source for the nicotine rush that addicted teens crave. While the JUUL may be a superior option to cigarettes, students would be better off not smoking all together.
The FDA should also advance regulation of e-cigarette products, like JUULs, but due to inaction last year, it can’t do so anytime soon. Last year, the FDA delayed regulations that could have drastically cut down the number of e-cigarettes on the market and allowed for increased research on the benefits and detriments of long-term use, supposedly locking in the products on the market for the next four years. Now, rather than focusing on nicotine reduction and advanced regulation, the FDA is more focused on banning certain e-cigarette flavors from the market.
While cutting down the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is a productive move for the FDA, it is a mistake to think hat this will put a halt to student nicotine addiction. Similarly, changing the flavors won’t take away the head rush. Without restriction of e-cigarette products, like the JUUL, it seems that nicotine addiction levels among teens will not drop, but instead increase.
A version of this article appeared in the March 26 print edition. Email Tyler Crews at [email protected]