The Price Of Cool: A Teenager, A Juul, Nicotine Addiction
By Jan Hoffman, New York Times
READING, Mass. — He was supposed to inhale on something that looked like a flash drive and threw off just a wisp of a cloud? What was the point?
A skeptical Matt Murphy saw his first Juul at a high school party in the summer of 2016, in a suburban basement crowded with kids shouting over hip-hop and swigging from Poland Spring water bottles filled with bottom-shelf vodka, followed by Diet Coke chasers.
Everyone knew better than to smoke cigarettes. But a few were amusing themselves by blowing voluptuous clouds with clunky vapes that had been around since middle school. This Juul looked puny in comparison. Just try it, his friend urged. It’s awesome.
Matt, 17, drew a pleasing, minty moistness into his mouth. Then he held it, kicked it to the back of his throat and let it balloon his lungs. Blinking in astonishment at the euphoric power-punch of the nicotine, he felt it — what he would later refer to as “the head rush.”
“It was love at first puff,” said Matt, now 19.
The next day, he asked to hit his friend’s Juul again. And the next and the next. He began seeking it out wherever he could, that irresistible feeling — three, sometimes four hits a day.
So began a toxic relationship with an e-cigarette that would, over the next two years, develop into a painful nicotine addiction that drained his savings, left him feeling winded when he played hockey and tennis, put him at snappish odds with friends who always wanted to mooch off his Juul and culminated in a shouting, tearful confrontation with his parents.
He would come to hate himself for being dependent on the tiny device, which he nicknamed his “11th finger.” Yet any thought of quitting made him crazy-anxious.
Experiences like Matt’s have placed Juul at the epicenter of a national debate. On one side stand longtime adult smokers who celebrate the device as the aid that finally helped them quit smoking. On the other are teenagers who have never smoked a cigarette but who have swiftly become addicted to Juul’s intense nicotine hits.
This week the Food and Drug Administration tried to walk a careful line between the two, announcing restrictions that only permit stores to sell most flavored e-cigarettes from closed-off areas that are inaccessible to customers under 18. But it stopped short…