Marlboro First To Try, Juul Last To Go

Written By Stephen Hill, Edited by Marc Hoberman

Some people remember their first day of high school. For me, it was mixed feelings of fear, nervousness and excitement. But even more than my first day of high school, I vividly remember my first keg party on the Friday after my freshman year began.

I knew walking into this party that drugs and alcohol would be available. This was the night I took my first real drink and smoked my first cigarette—a Marlboro light. I continued to smoke cigarettes for the next 13 years, and I also vaped for the last two of those 13 years.

I was actually introduced to vaping while I was in treatment. It was presented to me in the same way that Juul markets its product: “A satisfying alternative to cigarettes” that will help me quit smoking. In reality, it just made giving up nicotine that much more difficult. Nicotine was the first drug I tried, and the last to go.


When I turned 26, I finally gave up vaping and smoking cigarettes altogether. It wasn’t easy. At that point, I had used nicotine in one way or another for half of my life, and now, I was finally nicotine free. But how could my sobriety date be September 30, 2012, if I did not give up smoking and vaping nicotine until September of 2014?

The Answer:​ Nicotine does not count as a substance when considering if someone is living a life in recovery. In fact, most treatment programs allow residents to use nicotine; some even encourage nicotine use to help deal with the stress of coming off harder drugs such as heroin, OxyContin, or Xanax.

It’s a controversial topic, but I understand the concept behind allowing people coming off drugs to use nicotine while in treatment. “Can I smoke cigarettes, and can I vape?” are two of the most common questions asked to employees working in the admissions office of a treatment program. Truthfully, I don’t think my 24-year-old opioid addicted brain could have handled the idea of walking into treatment knowing that I had to give up nicotine. 

But isn’t nicotine a drug too? This lenient outlook on nicotine use, especially vaping, has gone too far. It’s not just adult recovering drug addicts or alcoholics who can’t handle the idea of going a day without cigarettes or their Juul. Sadly enough, now college, high school and even middle school students can’t handle the idea of going a day without vaping nicotine. Much of this has to do with the evil genius marketing of companies like Juul, and the results of their marketing campaign are showing:

  • Teenage vape use has skyrocketed to an all-time high
  • Vaping related illnesses are showing up across the country
  • People are dying—as young as 17-years-old

juul law suit

Some are wasting no time fighting back. The Three Village Central School District on Long Island is suing Juul for the negative impact the company has had on their students and the time and resources the district was forced to devote in order to fight this crisis.

I will be graduating from Brooklyn Law School in December 2020, and hope to join the legal fight against both Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. For now, I will continue to share my story of recovery and message of wellness with the youth of America.

Send me an e-mail and I will gladly forward you a PDF copy of the full version of this article, which includes Flip the Script on Juul: Wellness Marketing Tips.


Marc Hoberman and Stephen Hill working together in Marc’s office where he used to tutor Stephen back when he was in high school. Marc is the co-author of Stephen Hill’s memoir, A Journey to Recovery.

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