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Four-Pod Teen

Luka Kinard is back in the news with his almost unbelievable vaping tales as American authorities use his claimed case as evidence of the “epidemic” dangers

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“Honour roll student”, “Eagle scout” and “rehab” all combine to make a worthwhile story in many newsrooms. Add in words like “nicotine”, “addiction” and “JUUL”, and it’s like striking a fat gold seam in America. Who doesn’t adore a great story about failure and redemption? Luka Kinard and his parents presented him as such to the media and they’ve been going back to tell his tale ever since.

Kinard claims to have taken up vaping at 14 because “other students were using an e-cigarette called a JUUL”. A short period later, his addiction of vaping took hold so badly (apparently) that he needed to vape “all of the time” - four JUULpods per day. The newspapers like this; it gives them an opportunity to do some rubbish fag packet maths and falsely state this is akin to smoking 80 cigarettes a day. It isn’t.

The Press also gets the opportunity to ask him about his favourite flavours: “mango and menthol”. “Ooh,” squeal the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and hundreds of other puritanical lobbyists, “them’s targeted-at-teens flavours!”

Unusually, probably the first boy going through puberty ever to experience this, Luka lost all interest in a number of things he used to enjoy like fishing, hanging around with other boys making knots, or being nice to his parents.

“His behaviour became explosive. He was very angry and it just wasn’t him,” commented his bemused Mum. As well as puberty, something else was happening with Luka’s brain that would have explained everything had she not been so focussed on his JUULpod.

To justify the amount of time he hid away in his bedroom and the bathroom, the tale of being gripped by vaping grew to monstrous proportions: “When I started spending $17 every four days or every day it was getting to a problem. $150 on pods in a week, and I noticed like this was getting out of control. I was selling my clothes. I would get shoes, sell them, go out get cheap shoes, sell them. I was doing anything and everything to get money.”

Do you have a £500 a month juice habit? All of us hardened, dyed in the wool smokers who’ve switched to vaping - we all have ridiculous juice consumption figures like that, don’t we? Don’t mock. Who among us hasn’t resorted to selling our shoes or doing “anything and everything” to find the money to pay for our juice habit?

Fortunately for Luka, Mrs Kinard was on hand. Kelly Kinard doesn’t give her profession in any of the articles we’ve seen but she knows more about counselling than counsellors, she knows more about mental health than psychiatrists, and she knows more about diagnosing medical conditions than clinical practitioners.

She told the counsellor that vaping was an issue. She wrote off a diagnosis of mental illness, because vaping was the problem. Then, when he suffered a seizure - well, you know what Kelly put that down to.

Enter Jerome Adams, United States Surgeon General. Trusting in the verdict of someone who didn’t need to study for seven years at medical school before undergoing countless on-the-job training courses, Adams lent validity to the diagnosis by tweeting about it. If Kelly said the seizures were vape related then this was good enough for the medical doctor who prides himself on “engaging” with the vape community in order to seek “balance”.

Let’s be absolutely clear at this point: there is no way any of Luka’s symptoms could have had anything to do with the drug Wellbutrin.

What? We haven’t mentioned Wellbutrin before? This is probably because none of the stories in the press do, Kelly doesn’t speak of it and - if the Surgeon General even knew - Jerome Adams wasn’t tweeting any reference to it.

Wellbutrin is one of the brand names for Bupropion, a medication Luka had been prescribed for depression (the kind of mental illness that causes people to stop doing activities they previously enjoyed and often become “explosively angry”).

It is a medication that lists the following possible side effects: “Nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, headache, constipation, increased sweating, joint aches, sore throat, blurred vision, strange taste in the mouth, diarrhoea, or dizziness.”

Oh, and maybe before we continue we ought to mention this, side effects also state: “


Again, don’t knock Kelly Kinard or the United States Surgeon General – they probably haven’t had the opportunity to see the many warnings on the adverts, in the drug packaging or listed on one of the incredibly hard to access websites like WebMD. For their benefit, and the countless journalists who have parroted claims that vaping caused the seizure, we include a link to WebMD below.

“We followed up with the paediatrician, cardiologist and neurologist, and we couldn't get anyone to listen to us when we told them the seizure was preceded by Juuling,” said Kelly.

So, she did what any reasonable parent would do when they discover their child is vaping; Kelly Kinard placed her son into a rehab program at a substance abuse treatment centre. Before you raise you eyes skywards and mutter something under your breath, heed the words of one newspaper article: “This makes sense to Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Harvard Medical School”.

Of course it does, sending a 15yr-old child suffering from depression away to a rehab centre because they’ve been vaping makes perfect sense.

Finally, and this should be understood by everybody, the Kinard family’s behaviour and statements are almost certainly nothing to do with the initiation of a class action lawsuit against JUUL Labs, or demand for Luka to appear with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein as he announced his lawsuit against the company.



  • Wellbutrin - [link] <-Jerome Adams MD, read this
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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