My mother started smoking cigarettes when she was around 14 years old. Every one of her older siblings smoked, so for her, the youngest, it was really only a matter of time before she picked up the habit. 

Growing up, my mom was careful about her cigarettes, never smoking inside the house and constantly reminding me of the dangerous health risks she was flirting with by choosing to remain a smoker. Nevertheless, I’d often sit outside with her whenever she took her cigarette breaks, and I remember nothing more regal than the air of my mother’s sophistication as she sat there, a relaxed expression on her sharp, beautiful face, and spoke to me between puffs. 

Whether she’d be giving me advice, listening to a story or telling me one of her own, the casual cigarette dangling between her fingers made my mother look like the coolest cat 

in town, for lack of a better expression. And when I grew up, the sheer aesthetic of my mother smoking made me want to unlearn everything I knew about nicotine and just buy one of those shiny packs. 

Of course, if you’ve ever smoked a cigarette but aren’t a smoker, you know that they’re objectively disgusting. Cigarettes leave you feeling smelly and smokey and gross, and now that everyone knows the full picture of their lousy health benefits, they’re seemingly not as popular—according to the CDC Fact Sheet, traditional cigarette sales dropped between 2015 and 2016. 

What’s undeniably and indisputably trending right now, though, is the e-cigarette. Apparently, high school administrators all over the country have been having serious issues getting students to stop vaping, especially since parents seem to be clueless about what juuls and vape pens are. 

One high school in Newton, Massachusetts, even sent out an email explaining, “Electronic cigarettes are devices that utilize stored electricity to heat a liquid into vapors, which are then inhaled by the user. The liquid can be anything from a flavored water-type mixture to liquid nicotine to THC, the principal active element of marijuana.” It included a photo of a juul “disguised as a sharpie-pen”, so parents would know what to watch out for in case their kids suddenly began to display strong affinities for markers.

At Duke, it feels like you’re either sitting next to that kid with a juul, or you are in fact that kid with the juul. Over recent months, I’ve seen more and more of my friends succumb to the trend, and you can always catch that shade of shame when they pridefully, or shamefully, reveal it: “Guys, I bought a juul.”

On its website, creators James Monsees and Adam Bowen explain that they co-founded the juul in 2007 because “they’d been smokers for many years and were increasingly dissatisfied with the health and social impacts of cigarettes. Wanting to create a true alternative to combustible tobacco products, James and Adam knew that smokers who want to switch are looking for something that does not look or feel like a cigarette.” 

Yes, because cigarettes are gross. And juul’s are super cool. They’re sleek.

The only catch is that their nicotine content is 0.7mL per pod, which is “approximately equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs.” And perhaps most alarmingly, “long-term safety data on e-cigarettes do not yet exist.” So none of us really know what we’re obsessively inhaling into our bodies, but boy, do we feel guilty about it. 

A few weeks ago, most of my group chats were blowing up with stories about a “friend of a friend” of a friend who’d supposedly quickly died of lung cancer, and the perpetrator was, you guessed it, the juul. Panic spread instantly and apparently nation-wide, as within days The Tab released an article titled: “Report: The rumors about kids getting lung cancer from hitting the juul too hard are untrue.” 

And if that wasn’t enough of a kick to the stomachs of all of America’s high schoolers, the subtitle reads: “RIP to those of you who just flushed $45 down the toilet.” 

Clearly, kids aren’t clear on whether or not what they’re doing is safe. My own boyfriend, who’s cut down from being a frequent smoker to smoking the occasional social cigarette, went back and forth about whether or not it would benefit him to purchase an e-cigarette. On the one hand, the extra nicotine won’t help, but on the other hand, it’s “so cool. “

I know some people who’ve tried to quit smoking cigarettes by buying an e-cig, but for the most part, juul’s are the hottest accessory–whether you were smoker before or not, you’ve definitely thought about it, especially if your friends are doing it. And although for me, it doesn’t really replace the sheer regality of stepping outside to smoke a smooth little roll of paper and tobacco, the appeal clearly worked enough to become one of the biggest trends of this decade. 

So we may all be dying faster. But damn, we look great doing it...just like my mom always did. 

Daniela Flamini is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.