If You Rip a Juul and No One Sees, Are You Really a Smoker?

Let me start by putting it out there that this campus is ostensibly not, and likely never will be ,“smoke free.” That’s entirely okay, since it is also likely that people think twice before smoking a step and a half from the entrance to Armstrong. And even though it has been entirely unacceptable to—discreetly or not—rip a Juul during class, we all know that person. We also all know someone who dips at a party, and I know there’s a whole lot of judgment that comes with that, and use joke of wanting to kiss that person much less post-dip. This past weekend, I even heard a few comments on how it’s “less attractive when girls smoke cigarettes.”

Cartoon by Cate Johnson

Sexist trash aside, I have always been surrounded by rhetoric on the dangers of smoking, and, more relevant here, the social stigma of tobacco. “I don’t like the smell,” “I think it’s kind of gross,” “my [relative] used to, so I don’t want to,” “It’s annoying when my friends step outside to smoke; I just don’t get it,” are all responses I’ve heard to why people believe tobacco is stigmatized in their social circles and beyond.

Even if smoking is “gross” and unappealing to many, it’s likely more the method and image rather than the actual substance, that change the way people think about smoking. Especially on our hyper-health-aware campus, it’s easy to judge someone smoking on their way to class, but unless you advertise it, your relationship with nicotine is in your back pocket and nowhere else.

While we are having conversations about a “smoke-free campus,” we should also be extremely aware of what a large portion of smoking actually looks like at CC. It’s becoming a lot more attractive and subtle. Even if there’s fewer problems concerning smoking at the tables outside of Loomis, that doesn’t exactly mean we are making any strides to look at our general reliance on nicotine.

Even after vaping became more mainstream—originally an alternative for smokers—I still make jokes about vapes the sizes of people’s hands and people priding themselves on “vape tricks.” I know the people in my general circles who smoke, dip, and vape, and there is a certain identity and association that comes with this consumption of nicotine. Even with the amount of Juul memes and jokes out there, however, I—at least personally—have never thought of someone as, “Oh, that person owns a Juul,” paralleled to literally anything else about them. You can be a smoker, maybe a “vaper,” but, it’s pretty easy to not be a “Juuler.”

I remember fourth grade science class when my teacher lit a cigarette into a tube and we watched a cotton ball turn black. I haven’t heard of any elementary school with experiments explaining why not to vape, or that addiction is possible without inhaling tobacco. Juuls are pretty, they smell good, and they’re discreet. No one watches educational videos about how they can essentially ruin your life. I’m not saying vaping necessarily will, but there’s not a degrading image that comes with obtaining the same desired results as a stigmatized cigarette or tin.

If image has the potential to make non-smokers buy a Juul, then how many people on this campus who “don’t smoke” are also addicted to nicotine? 

I’ll go so far to say it’s not the smoking that people have an issue with, but rather how it’s presented and how no one else has to really see it. I’m not sure what’s next in terms of the nicotine buzz, but maybe Juuls will go from sexy and separated from tobacco, to kind of out of place, to an unappealing disturbance.

So, for right now at least, you can be a “non-smoker” on a “smoke-free campus,” and thank you for being considerate of others at the tables outside Benji’s. But that doesn’t really mean you’re not smoking. You’re just smelling a lot better, and if you turn away, no one will know you “Juuled.” Then it’s immediately a “smoke-free” campus again.    

We can buy nice cases, Juul inside parties without anyone getting upset, and distance ourselves as far as we can from tobacco, but we shouldn’t be making ourselves feel better about not being addicted to a habit we call gross when there’s definitely a similar routine going on all around us.

While I am unqualified to touch on health differences between the two, I don’t believe we can judge one type of smoker over another just because it’s easier to rip a Juul than take a cigarette break. We’re all as bad as the next person. It’s just a matter of how we present it to the person next to us who is as worried enough to avoid a second look. 

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