White Smoke, White Out

The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul By Jia Tolentino


At Cornell, Jason told me, people Juuled in bathrooms and classrooms, in “everynook and cranny of this campus.” In the fall, he’d started a group text, with a few friends, to co├Ârdinate pod runs. He called the group Juuluminati, and it has since grown to three hundred and twenty-four members. Jason was Juuling while he talked to me, on the third floor of an academic building. “I know for a fact that there are two or three of my good friends sitting on the first floor of this building eating ham sandwiches and just Juuling away,” he said.

Jason believes that the Juul craze is fundamentally ironic. “It’s young people doing something terrible for them that’s supposed to be healthy,” he said. He compared the infatuation with Juul to the millennial love of the restaurateur and TV host Guy Fieri—“this completely bizarre food personality that people call Daddy now”and observed that his generation was most flippant when it came to serious things, “like health, or mortality.” Jason was mildly wary of his new nicotine habit, as most young Juulers are. There’s a whole genre of throwing-away-my-Juul videos on social media, with people tossing their vape into a river or a snowbank as dramatic music plays.

In Charlottesville, I went to the main libra a decade earlier, sending a text message every few hours, I briefly felt old and sad. It was hard to imagine being in college and swiping through Tinder, watching Instagram Stories, sucking on electronics, getting push alerts about the warming Arctic and the latest Cabinet secretary to be fired. I asked Katie if she thought that Juul relieved her generation’s anxiety or exacerbated it. “I don’t know,” she said. “People definitely stress-Juul. But everything we do is like Tide Pods. Everyone in this generation is semi-ironically, like, We’re ready to die.

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