That Cloud of Smoke Is Not a Mirage

For most young smokers, vapes exist in somewhat of a dance, whether they be Juuls, Myle disposable pods or single-use e-cigarettes like Puff Bars. Many tried e-cigarettes in their teens, before fragrant flavors were outlawed in many states, and many more leapt onto the Juul trend a few years ago. Of the smokers I spoke to (about 20), most use vapes in tandem with smoking cigarettes, though some will not go near vapes.

“If you’re going to be addicted to something, use cigarettes,” Ms. Frey said. “Don’t have a USB charger in your mouth. It looks so lame.” Many young smokers supplement with vapes, particularly Juuls, as a means to satisfy their nicotine cravings when a cigarette is not available.

At the same time, a number of people interviewed for this article expressed irritation with the insidiousness of e-cigarettes: Their relative camouflage, compared with traditional cigarettes, means users can, and often do, hit it all the time. The nicotine stream from an e-cigarette becomes like the internet itself: constant, unbreakable and yearning for their attention.

“I was like, ‘I am just consuming way too much nicotine,’” said Ms. Yara, who found herself inhaling more than one Juul pod a day, the equivalent nicotine of a pack of cigarettes. “I hated how if I couldn’t find a vape for a second, I could not do schoolwork.” Ms. Yara returned to cigarettes as a means of decreasing her vape use.

So did Emile Osborne, a 22-year-old graphic designer. “I switched back to cigarettes because I thought it would be healthier than Juuling,” he said. “Cigarettes seem like a known evil, whereas vaping you don’t know the side effects at all. I can go out for a cig a few times a day. It’s a break from what I’m doing. That’s my nicotine fix for the day.”

This method does not seem realistic to Ken Warner, the an emeritus dean of public health at the University of Michigan, who sees vapes as a powerful weapon in the public health’s war on smoking. “If they’re really addicted to nicotine, two to four cigarettes a day would be most unlikely to satisfy a true physical addiction,” he said.

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