NY Times- A skeptical Matt Murphy saw his first Juul at a high school party in the summer of 2016, in a suburban basement crowded with kids shouting over hip-hop and swigging from Poland Spring water bottles filled with bottom-shelf vodka, followed by Diet Coke chasers.
Matt, 17, drew a pleasing, minty moistness into his mouth. Then he held it, kicked it to the back of his throat and let it balloon his lungs. Blinking in astonishment at the euphoric power-punch of the nicotine, he felt it — what he would later refer to as “the head rush.”
So began a toxic relationship with an e-cigarette that would, over the next two years, develop into a painful nicotine addiction that drained his savings, left him feeling winded when he played hockey and tennis, put him at snappish odds with friends who always wanted to mooch off his Juul and culminated in a shouting, tearful confrontation with his parents.
He would come to hate himself for being dependent on the tiny device, which he nicknamed his “11th finger.” Yet any thought of quitting made him crazy-anxious.
After a few weeks of bumming daily hits from friends (called “fiending”), Matt went on a family vacation out West. On his second day without a Juul, he found he wanted one desperately. On the third, he couldn’t take it anymore.
Soon, he escalated to a daily pod, sometimes more. He was spending $40 a week, draining his Christmas and birthday money, and his paycheck from his part-time job at Chili’s.
Matt doesn’t come across as a cool alpha. He’s an easy, approachable kid with a certain sweetness, voted “best personality” by his high school classmates. Focused on achieving academic and financial success, he stayed away from marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes. The Juul, he thought, was a harmless way to look like an edgy risk-taker.
It became stitched into his social identity, and bound him to his buddies, who would ride around town hitting their Juuls in one friend’s 2002 Volvo.
He and other athletes noticed they would get out of breath more quickly. “We called it ‘Juul lung,’ ” Matt said. “We knew it lowered our performance but we saw that as a sacrifice we were willing to make.”
Heart-wrenching profile from the Times today. We all have a Matt Murphy in our lives. For many of us at Barstool, that kid is Tommy Smokes. In the throes of addiction, Tommy appeared on Fox News and was incapable of getting through a short interview without scratching his Juul itch multiple times, right in the face of two women reporters who tried to teach him the dangers of his habit. So sad.
As I read about the downfall of young Matt Murphy, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to our young Tommy.
[Tommy] doesn’t come across as a cool alpha. He’s an easy, approachable kid with a certain sweetness, voted [“most likely to replace Frankie”] by his [coworkers.]
He and other [college play-by-play announcers] noticed they would get out of breath more quickly. “We called it ‘Juul lung,’ ” [Tommy] said. “We knew it lowered our performance but we saw that as a sacrifice we were willing to make.”
After a few weeks of bumming daily hits from [Jack Mac and the other guys who sit at that random table] (called “fiending”), [Tommy] went on [a forced trip to Dave’s apartment.] On his second day without [water or a phone call to let his family know he was ok], he found he wanted [his Juul and freedom] desperately.
It became stitched into his social identity, and bound him to [Team Portnoy], who would ride around [the country] hitting their Juuls in [a private jet].
He was spending $40 a week, draining [the tiny percentage Dave kicks him when they win a bunch of bets] money, and his paycheck from his [full-time] job at [Barstool Sports].
It’s a terrible story, and one that hits all too close to home. We must encourage this next generation to “be cool” in other ways. Hand them a book, or a violin. Something to occupy their hands. Maybe then, kids like Matt and Tommy will find a less harmful way to employ their “11th finger.”