Ten years ago I was blogging about fun things to do around Kirkland with a toddler, and now apparently I've moved on to topics like trying to understand the allure of vaping for teenagers. Some of you are eye rolling me right now b/c this may be your schtick, but I was feeling a little mystified by the clouds of fruity smoke I kept walking through on the street. Now with 12 and 14 year olds in the house I hear stories of middle and high schoolers doing this after school, in the bathroom, and even IN class. Why? What does it look like? How much does it cost? Is it addictive? How bad is it for you? Inquiring parental minds want to know. So, I strolled on down to XHale Vapor & Smoke on Lake St. to have them give me a little lesson. Walking into the store is a bit intimidating for a newbie and smells of smoky mango. There are big hookahs on one side and a counter of vaping devices on the other, with a wall full of oils and cartridges behind that. Overwhelming. Where to start?
<-- Meet Spencer w/his vape juice menu. Sooo patient answering all of my questions
The minimum age in the State of WA, which is also the federal minimum, to purchase e-cigarettes is 18 years old, just like it is for smoking. In California and a handful of other states it is 21. My helpful friends Abdul and Spencer (photo) at XHale said that most of their 50 or so clients per day are 30+ yrs old. This whole e-cigarette craze started about 5-6 years ago so there is not much data on long term effects. These devices are different from smoking in that you are using a rechargeable device to heat liquid nicotine into vapor which is then inhaled and absorbed into the lungs. There's no tobacco smell, carcinogens, tar or combustion. And you can control the nicotine level- choosing from liquids that have a .3% , .6% or 1.2% nicotine concentration. The nicotine level will correlate to the 'buzz' that you get when you inhale the vapor. This is also why many smokers that are trying to quit turn to vaping, so they can systematically ratchet down their nicotine levels and wean themselves off the habit. Spencer likes to think of it as a cleaner and safer alternative to smoking.
My what a beautiful juul you have
The "Juul" (pronounced 'jewel', the gray/white stick in photo) is super popular right now since it is small, discreet and inexpensive. They look a lot like a tall USB drive. And seem dwarfed when compared to the more traditional (sooo 2016) vapes like the pink one in the photo. A juul starter kit is about $55 and a package of 4 cartridges is $18. The cartridge (photo w/the arrow glaring at it) is what houses the 'juice.' Juice consists of roughly 70% vegetable glycerin and 30% propyline glycol and of course whatever nicotine % you fancy. The top of the cartridge is where you suck to get the vapor that can be any of the many many bins of flavors that are available. There's watermelon, brain freeze, lava flow, very cool, and naked unicorn which apparently tastes like strawberry cake. Blue raspberry is another popular one. Which sort of makes this start to feel like an adult candy store, right? Unfortunately, kids are also getting their hands on these devices, perhaps through older siblings and friends or online purchases, and are enjoying their candy flavored hits as well. One juul cartridge is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. In 2016, more than 2 million US middle and high school students reporting having used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. This includes 4.3% of middle school students and 11.3% of high school students (per the CDC). I asked my high schoolers if this was surprising and they assured me the numbers are higher. They even said they were worried they'd be the only ones at their future high school reunions because "everyone else" at school vapes. The product hasn't been out long enough for any reliable long term studies yet, however, it's interesting to read the CDC's take on the matter as they outline the pros (can help you quit smoking) versus cons (don't start, it's still nicotine, we already know that's bad and highly addictive).
<--this one is for THC liquid, so not quite as small as a juul (yet)
And FWIW, you cannot put weed juice in a juul, that requires a weed vaporizer, which looks a little bit different, the smallest/most similar one looking like this photo. You getting all of this, folks? At least now you know a little bit of what's what. At least for a few moments. Until..... I asked Spencer what his most popular item in Xhale was he said "kratom." 18 and over. It is often used for pain relief and relaxation and also frequently for people trying to quit an opiate addiction. Which is a whole different controversial story altogether. Who can keep up?! ~j