The JUUL phenomenon

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If I were to pick one phrase that defines the dialogue of Occidental College as of October 2017, it would be “Do you have your JUUL?” It’s usually followed by, “yeah, but I’m out of pods.”

The JUUL device is a small apparatus one can enjoy smoking vapor out of. It resembles a memory stick and coincidentally, the way to charge it is by plugging it into your computer’s USB port. Its designers appealed to the minimalist aesthetic: its matte black and dark grey color palette is supplemented by a streamlined design. Men’s Fitness, a highly reputable source for tech news, reviewed the JUUL as “The iPhone of E-cigs.” Holding it feels like you’re holding a small ruler, since most of the device is virtually empty; the powerhouse of this party is in the JUULpods.

Collin Mazeika (first year), who is adept at color coordination, shows off his Juul.

JUUL offers an auto-ship service for their pods that is catered to your lifestyle. Pick from three carefully constructed plans: Social, Regular, and if you really need these things to live, Frequent, which sends eight pods per week to really do your lungs a number.

But isn’t the JUUL just another vape? I thought so, too, but apparently, the JUUL is a true phenomenon. From people JUULing in the library to the old Iranian man I buy bread from on the weekends on San Fernando Rd., the JUUL is truly everywhere.

Full disclosure: I would rather see someone viciously chain-smoking cigarettes than attempting to suck the last few drops of life out of a creme-brulee JUULpod. Once, I saw a group of people passing around a single JUUL. What happened to normal smoking? Have we devolved to a level of technology-dependence where we need a flash drive to ingest carcinogens? I can’t help but feel like the next logical step is the implantation of permanent JUULpods at the base of our brain stems, activated solely by a forceful inhale on the user’s part. At least everyone’s exhalations would be mango flavored.

I decided to find out what other people’s thoughts on JUULs were. I began with Nathalie Kaoumi (junior), who initially said that JUULs aren’t all that bad.

“JUULs have less smoke coming out,” Kaoumi said. “And they are also significantly smaller than a standard vape which I do think is too bulky and cumbersome.”

Most other vape pens are bigger than a JUUL and employ a button-pressing mechanism that adds bulk to the body. After a thoughtful pause, Kaoumi added that she ultimately thinks of JUULs as just another vape that produces sickeningly sweet, artificial smelling vapors.

Isaac Salvatierra (junior) is happy that JUULs exist.

“Overall I think JUULs are great — a good resource for people who want to stop smoking cigs,” Salvatierra said. “It’s pretty small and discreet and does not give off huge clouds of vape like other e-cigs.”

This discreetness seems to be what most people like about the JUUL. I saw a student immediately hit the JUUL after our chemistry class ended. I asked him what he liked about JUULs.

“It’s just convenient,” he said.

Isn’t it more convenient to just not smoke at all? (A decision The Weekly strongly supports).

The JUUL device functions through the JUULpods. They come in five flavorings: mango, the most popular, virginia tobacco, cool mint, fruit medley and creme brûlée. Who came up with these choices? Fruit medley sounds like what you’d see on a weird off-brand air freshener and cool mint is literally what it says on my toothpaste. These JUULpods have recently been featured on several comic-sans laden flyers reporting missing hydroflasks and offering the pods as monetary rewards.

The underground economy of Occidental College, Juul pods are consistently offered as a reward for missing items. Courtesy of an anonymous student.

Are JUULpods the next bitcoin?

I reached out to Yolbars Myhre (first year), who lives in Braun and bought a wheelchair to roll around within the common room. An unknown perpetrator stole the wheelchair and prompted the search for the missing chair. The reward for returning the wheelchair? Half a JUULpod.

“Obviously [the pods have] become a valuable commodity especially if it is free,” Myhre said. “That’s basically why we believe JUUL pods as an incentive might be very effective.”

Myhre said that maintaining a JUUL habit is very costly. A pack of four JUULpods runs for $15.99 online. One JUULpod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs, according to the JUUL website.

“They’re equally lame as cigarettes, bye,” Yuzu Ikeue (junior) said.

Her opinions on JUULS are the same as they are with any smoking device; she really, really hates the exhalation process. “I don’t care if people smoke them I just don’t want them to blow the goddamn smoke in my face,” Ikeue said.