It’s 2018. The age of the influential internet, smartphones, President Donald Trump, a tenacious youth rallying for gun control, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, interconnected spirits, the freedom of self-expression, gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, political activism — and the belittlement of being pressured to hit a Juul while in the school bathroom.
We’re millennials, Generation Z, iGen. We have the world at our fingertips, information at the tap of a button, two seconds to know whatever we want, whenever we want. In our lifetime we have witnessed so much and experienced the world change before us. We were the first generation to grow up with such advanced technology, this being amazingly monumental for us while at the same time increasingly detrimental.
Our entire lives are on the internet. They revolve around our social media accounts and who we follow, or more importantly, who follows us. We care too much – about being cool, about fitting in, about who is whispering about us to their friends, about being the most popular, drinking the most, doing the most drugs. We are teenagers with too much power. Too much fear.
We are easily influenced, moldable. The trends catch on fast and spread like wildfire. What is popular one week will be nonexistent the next. We are constantly searching, greedy for the next attractive thing, something bigger and better than the last.
And we wonder how Juuling came to be an epidemic?
Online research shows Juuls growing in popularity at the end of 2017. Juuls only became popular at First Flight when the first person put it on their Snapchat story. We watched with wide eyes as they blew up. The bravest few went and got one, to show it to their friend, to flex on Instagram, to hit it at home when their parents weren’t looking, to test themselves, see how far they could go, toe the line.
The effect of the Juul snowballed. This trend was not going to be extinguished as quickly as the others. It had grown too fast and was not going to be forgotten.
What started with a handful of ballsy teenagers rapidly escalated into whole friend groups, then entire classrooms, then three quarters of the school. It was – at its very core – the effects of peer pressure. When people hear “peer pressure,” they think of someone being singled out by a group, surrounded on all sides with no way out. The actuality of peer pressure has delved further than simple physical influence. A lot of times it isn’t even someone coming up to you forcing you to do something. The pressure is brought on by your own inner psyche, this innate desperation to be like everyone else – to be 15, 16, 17, 18-year-olds who want nothing more than to blend in and be a part of the crowd. Mob mentality pushes even middle schoolers to go out and buy a Juul. The power of one’s peers is so much stronger than their inner conscience, the voice telling them what they know is right: that Juuls could kill.
It’s truly frightening to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Kids who grow up with morals and a strong inner voice, urging them always to make the right decisions, stay with the right crowd, say no to drugs and alcohol, can be so effortlessly swayed to make the wrong decision. It doesn’t take bullying. There’s no shoving, no ridiculing or name calling, no threats. All it takes is to look around and see that everyone is doing it. Everyone is Juuling, so why aren’t I?
This idea is only magnified by social media. Maybe if you hadn’t seen Sally Joe with her new Juul on Snapchat, you wouldn’t have gone out and bought one yourself. And maybe if you hadn’t felt the thrill of finally belonging, you wouldn’t have continued to Juul.
Many times in high school there are things that are uncontrollable, left up to chance, luck or some other being. Those who are popular thank the lucky stars they are where they are and those who are “misfits” revel in their own nonconformity. You are left constantly to question why you don’t look like her or him, or why you have the parents you do, the teacher you do, the homework you do. These things are outside of one’s realm of command. Yet, if you could choose to do this thing to fit in, wouldn’t you fall for it, too?
And some of us on staff here at Nighthawk News have fallen for it. We Juul. We want to fit in. We want to feel that head buzz. Actually, at this point, we need it. Juuling has become a part of us. It is something that we can do with our friends, by ourselves and with acquaintances, to pass the time, to make that seven-hour school day a little bit better. This little killing machine has become socially acceptable in the world of our youth.
We’re writing this to make you understand. The adults, parents, teachers, advisers, counselors, coaches, siblings, friends — all of you. The power of peer pressure is real and its grip is impossibly strong on us. Maybe after you read this you may begin to gain some perception on why your kid is Juuling or why it’s constantly in the news, why we’re risking our health. It’s because we can’t bear to sit back and watch as another thing is added to the list of reasons why we don’t fit in.
The reality of 2018 is scary. We value our peers’ opinions more than our own self value or respect. It’s time for us to remember who we are and shed the layers of peer pressure constantly weighing us down. Juuling does not define who you are any more than it proves you fell prey to the influence of conformity.
Editor’s Note: The CDC shared that a “2018 National Academy of Medicine report found that there was some evidence that e-cigarette use increases the frequency and amount of cigarette smoking in the future” and traditional, burned cigarettes “are extraordinarily dangerous, killing half of all people who smoke long-term.”
This op-ed was first published in Nighthawk News by their editorial board. Read more at https://www.nighthawknews.com/.