January 9, 2020
Unlike Courtney, Teresa doesn’t worry about her health.
“The death thing doesn’t freak me out as much,” she said, “but who knows? In 30 years, we could all be dead because of the Juul.”
After discovering the temporary high that nicotine provides, she continues to use the device sporadically and considers vaping “fun.” When she heard about the rising mortality rate, Teresa briefly grew nervous, but the fear soon passed.
“I do have that mentality that I’m invincible—that I can do whatever—and it’s not going to affect me,” Teresa said.
Because she is 23 years old, Teresa can vape legally. Many others who harbor the same mindset are underage.
Mikayla, who is 18, has been vaping for nearly two years and doesn’t think she will develop illnesses anytime soon. She first started vaping as a freshman because most of her friends were also doing it. At first, she borrowed e-cigarettes from her friends and older brothers before buying her own Juul sophomore year.
“It’s okay for me to do it because it’s something that I enjoy,” Mikalya said. “It’s my own personal decision, and I don’t care if people criticize me for it. It’s none of their business.”
Mikayla has observed many young people beginning to vape. These adolescents, some of them barely out of elementary school, often have a warped perspective of the dangers of vaping.
“If their older sibling has one, or their older sibling’s friend has one, they think it’s harmless,” Mikayla said.
Other students vape due to peer pressure.
Reagan, a high school sophomore, began vaping in eighth grade. Using e-cigarettes was incredibly prevalent at her middle school, and she began to do so in order to fit in.
Mikayla and Teresa said that vaping, like underage drinking, is a way for high schoolers to engage in teenage rebellion.
“It’s part of being young,” Mikayla said. “There’s some kind of thrill in knowing you’re doing something you’re not supposed to.”
The perceived coolness of vaping is not limited to simple teenage rebellion. Social media and online culture have furthered the societal appeal and attractiveness of e-cigarettes. Vaping is so prevalent online that it appears normal.