‘Proceed with caution’

BEN WATSON/STAFF PHOTOSUNY Plattsburgh junior Mataeo Smith recently stopped using his Juul vaping device after a recent outbreak of over 450 possible vaping-related cases of pulmonary illnesses nationwide. He started vaping in his second year of college.

PLATTSBURGH — When SUNY Plattsburgh junior Mataeo Smith started vaping with a Juul vaping device in his sophomore year, he "kind of bought it as a goof,” he said.

“My friends back home were joking like, ‘Oh, are you a Juul kid now?’ and I bought one to show in pictures and say yeah, but it grew on me very quickly.”

Smith, 20, of the Bronx, said that he mostly sticks to mint and mango-flavored pods, and that it has become, “like a stress-reliever now.”

"They were cheaper than cigarettes, really," Smith said.

"I got a starter pack with the Juul itself and some pods for like 50 or 60 bucks. After that, I could get four-packs of pods for like 15, 20 bucks where I used to buy."

That was until he recently cut back following Centers For Disease Control reports citing as many as 450 possible cases of vaping-related pulmonary illnesses, and, as of Sept. 11, six deaths.

“I haven’t touched it in like a week,” Smith said. “It freaked me out a bit, because I do come from a family of smokers, and I witnessed firsthand the bad effects of what it does to you. I thought (vaping) was safer.”

Smith added that he’s waiting it out at the moment to see what information comes out of CDC investigations around the recent spate of illnesses, but that he’s hesitant to continue using his Juul.

A recently passed New York State law, which will go into effect Nov. 13, will move the minimum age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21.

Smith, who turns 21 in December, would only have about a month when he would be unable to purchase pod refills if he were to start vaping again.

Even so, Smith isn’t convinced that teens wouldn’t be able to get their hands on the products if they want them.

“There’s a lot of things you can’t do until you’re 21; people just do it secretly,” Smith said. “Everyone would find a way.”

On top of the upcoming state law, in response to the recent national outbreak of vaping-related sickness and deaths, the Trump Administration announced Sept. 11 that the Food and Drug Administration is moving to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette and vaping products nationwide.

Smith said, though, that the change likely wouldn’t affect his vaping habits.

“I’m in it for the nicotine, not the flavor.”

Which is why he warns anyone who is thinking about starting the habit to think about what they are doing.

“I would tell them to proceed with caution,” Smith said. “Vaping is fun until you develop a need for it.”

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