This article originally appeared on VICE US
Now that the news serves as a daily, public reminder that we have very little clues about what might happen to a person who vapes a pod a day, the r/juul subreddit appears to be having a bit of an identity crisis. Monday morning, for instance, a post that was just a photo of a gallon-sized plastic baggie packed full of technicolor Juul pods (title: “Am I going to die? Am I already dead??”) sat just above a very different, but increasingly frequent type of post: “Finally quitting.” Another similar one (“Quit juul yesterday. This morning felt awful!”) wasn’t even a full scroll below; it was sandwiched between a review of a new Juul device and a screenshot of someone’s $360+ online order of flavored pods.
It’s a weird look, for sure, to see posts from people struggling to quit mixed in with posts from people who—fuck what the news says—still absolutely love to hit the Juul. Quitting announcements and progress reports have shown up on r/juul for some time, but seem to have picked up in recent weeks. Scrolling the subreddit now gives a pretty clear glimpse at the health anxiety that a summer of mystery e-cig-related illnesses has caused. While it’s still unclear if any actual Juul pods have been involved in any of what’s now more than 500 cases of vaping-related illnesses, reading headlines about teenagers showing up to the hospital with lungs “like a 70-year-old’s” is scaring people off vaping (and, in some cases, sending them right back to cigarettes).
Once a place for Juul-lovers only, the amount of advice on how to quit Juuling has ramped up significantly. Most posts on quitting don’t give real reasons for the decision, and just cite feeling vaguely unwell. One lengthy post does detail myriad symptoms that sound like the bodily equivalent of a car breaking down on the highway:
“I started to cough a ton, read that I should take smaller hits. So I started doing that and it helped for a while but eventually the coughing returned no matter how tiny the hits I took were... ...I felt like my lungs were ‘lagging’ behind my diaphragm. As if they were struggling to respond to the inhaling and exhaling it air. And when exhaling (towards the end of the exhale) it felt as if my lungs wanted to give way and just collapse on me, it was extremely worrisome and unpleasant. Regardless of what was actually happening, it became obvious to me that this shit is not good for my health.”
Most seeking-advice threads are much simpler. “I started juuling to stop dipping, and it worked, but I finally stopped juuling but these headaches suck and the tired fog as well,” reads one recent post. “How did you guys get through it?” The three comments on the thread sound like boilerplate advice for people trying to quit cigarettes: “What about the patch,” “I’m going to try the gym,” and “Drink lots of water and push through.” It’s perhaps a misguided attempt at getting advice; the online version of walking up to a group of cigarette smokers and looking for someone to commiserate with about how bad it feels to stop.
About nine months ago, an ex-r/juuler created a separate subreddit for exactly this type of post; it’s called, quite aptly, r/QuttingJUUL and has about 1/50th of the members that r/juul does. The top comment on the pinned introductory post captures the subreddit’s raison d'être ([sic] throughout): “Quitting the juul was harder for me then cigs. You can juul indoors and practically 24/7 depending on how transparent you are, cigs not so much. I went from juulijg 3x more then I ever smoked so quitting was a feat for sure.” The rest of the posts read like dispatches from a support group, which, considering the volume of wannabe-ex-Juulers, will exist soon if it doesn’t already.
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