Letter to the Editor

Paul Gordon, Student

Dear Editor,
      I look forward to the Herald every month. You guys are amazing at bringing in perspectives from every class, and weaving them together to form a complete portrait of student life at Arapahoe High School, which becomes an invaluable resource for everyone within these walls. Needless to say, I was quite shocked when an article was released with journalistic integrity that is quite below your standards that you have set for yourself. The Herald has had many run ins with administration over the years. Publishing controversial articles has never been a problem for you, and I admire that. However, I’m very disappointed that your focus section relied on inherently flawed surveying, featured hardly any outside research, and used witness testimonials that were a clear sign of a failure to dig deeper.
      There is a multitude of reliable studies about the effects of e-cigarettes, including a study by the Public Health England that I have linked here. I understand that “safer” does not mean “safe”, but that seems like a study that is a google search away would be included in any objective report on the health effects of JUUL. Another study, which specifically studied JUUL, found no Benzene in the aerosol, and in the two devices that they tested that were not JUUL (refillable tank systems) they found varying levels of Benzene. These levels were all less than .5% that of a conventional cigarette. Nickel and Chromium elements have been present in the coils that heat up the wick. JUUL uses neither, instead opting for a Nichrome Coil System. Diacetyl was found in 75% of tested E-Cigarette Flavors, along with other potentially harmful chemicals (2,3-Pentanedione and Acetoin) in this study. However, no provable link has been found between the presence of these chemicals and significantly harmed users. However, JUUL does not contain these chemicals, as per their official website. Finally, the Formaldehyde assertion has been hotly contested. The study that is usually cited is this. However, these test results were heavily questioned by multiple experts and institutions due to the scientist’s methodology, which the linked article breaks down. All of this information above was found within an hour and a half. The fact that there were no citations of any kind in the entire eight page spread was frankly appalling to me. Since your staff is not a team of doctors, I do not feel that a spread outlining the supposed health effects of using JUUL devices is appropriate. On a smaller scale, the legal penalties for JUUL use vary widely. Arapahoe County Ordinance no. 2008-01 states that the penalty for possession of a tobacco product within 2000 feet of a school is a $75 fine. There is no law in Arapahoe County against possession outside of 2000 feet of a school. Contrary to your report, there is no Colorado state law preventing the possession of tobacco products. I’m not quite sure which county or area ordinance you got the $100 fine from, except for if you used the second offense in Arapahoe County for some reason.
      The survey methods used in your student survey did not seem sound to me at all. Although you did have a respectable sample size at 830 students, I feel like any serious survey such as this would be wrought with joke responses and outright lies. Not many students know their rights when it comes to confidentiality, and I feel as if this would cause a student to lie about owning, using, or interacting in any way with a JUUL or JUUL user. Along with this, students have a tendency to try to find humor in serious issues, causing a wave in joking survey responses. Were these responses detected and weeded out from the honest samples? If so, how were you sure? Student polls might be useful for tracking prom themes, but not for an issue such as this. Although I respect the focus on Arapahoe,  surveys conducted professionally by researchers may have been more helpful for this report. Along with this, the witness testimonies included seemed fairly mild to me. $20 per month is a pack of four pods per month. Most of my friends who still have JUULs use about 1/2 of a pod per day. When I used JUUL, I used a pack a week. I know that this is anecdotal, but so are the testimonies. With a little more digging, you could’ve found much more compelling stories.
      Again, thank you for all of your hard work. I’m sure that this report took an immense amount of time, and many people are very proud of it, and they should be. However, all journalism deserves to be critiqued. This isn’t a statement on JUUL, I have my own opinions and discourse on that specific subject. This is about journalistic integrity, and this spread fell below the Herald’s mark.
Thank you,
      Paul Gordon