In the span of a couple months, smokers have begun to think of cigarettes not as “cancer sticks” — but a safer choice for a fix than vapes, users say.
The dramatic shift comes as vaping-related illnesses have exploded to become one of biggest public health concerns of the year. The death toll from vapes has reached 34, and hundreds more have faced life-threatening sicknesses.
This means that, astonishingly, fears over e-cigs have converted vapers such as 20-year-old Delilah Cravens back to cigarettes, even though the risks remain deadly.
“Within the people I hang out with, there was a point where most of us were Juuling, and now most of us are back to cigarettes,” the Kenyon College junior tells The Post.
With vapes, it can sometimes seem like potential new risks arise daily, users say. Now, cigarettes are feeling like a less-chaotic evil, especially as people realize how little has been done to study the new devices over the long term. Nielsen reports the long-term decline in cigarette sales was moderated somewhat this September, at the same time as e-cigarettes’ growth rate slowed, Bloomberg reports.
“Cigarettes are bad for you, but you’re aware of the extent of the risk you’re imposing on yourself,” says Cravens, who switched from cigarettes to Juul last year, but is now back to smoking.
A Juul spokesperson tells The Post that their devices are designed to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes to an alternative nicotine delivery system. “[They are] not intended to be used as a nicotine cessation product, or for the treatment of nicotine addiction or dependence.”
And many believe the rash of recent deaths and illnesses are due not to nicotine e-cigarettes but black market THC vapes, which insiders have previously described to The Post as a “totally unregulated” industry.
Still, former vaper Caterina Kenworthy was so scared by the vape-related illness epidemic she threw her Juul into a dumpster behind her apartment and switched back to cigs, which she smoked in her early teens.
The 25-year-old freelance photographer and bartender in Massachusetts shared a video of the dramatic scene on social media.
Kenworthy says broadcasting the moment to her friends and followers deepens her resolve not to hit a Juul again.
“Sharing moments like that can provide a sense of personal accountability,” she says, adding that she was also growing more concerned about her dependence on e-cigs.
Dealers say they’re noticing a shift as well. One THC vape supplier says he may have to look for a different revenue stream.
“The falloff of the people who used to buy cartridges has gotten to the point I’m considering not even buying more of them,” says a 22-year-old Brooklyn-based dealer who’s been selling marijuana for eight years, but couldn’t share his name for fear of legal repercussions.
“It’s put a dent in my customer base,” he tells The Post. The change was sudden, he adds, noting the drop-off happened in August and September — about when vape-related illnesses and deaths began making headlines.
Wholesale prices have dropped too, although he blames it partially on increased market saturation. “Back in the day, you got a gram of pure distillate [THC oil] for $20,” he says. But today “you can buy it wholesale for $8. That would’ve been unheard of two years ago.”
Not every vape user is concerned about their safety — though they are prepared for the regulatory backlash to get much worse.
“The vape deaths made me go out and buy a year supply of vape juice because I knew an irrational knee-jerk political reaction was about to hit us,” says Adam Colon, 44.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned flavored e-cigarettes last month, “I started to panic,” he tells The Post.
He went to the vape shop downstairs from his Dumbo office and bought $120 worth of vape juice.
“That whole week everyone was mass buying,” he says the shop owner told him.
But, for 24-year-old Clinton Hill resident Hannah Erhart, who quit Juuling for safety reasons and because it was becoming a more expensive habit than smoking, it’s back to smoking breaks in alleyways — which she claims is a welcome change.
“You don’t have to go outside to Juul at a party,” she says. “It’s definitely something I missed when I switched to Juuling.”
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