Organic spearmint leaf, mullein leaf, red raspberry leaf, passion flower and calendula petals make up the Jade and Pearl Sacred Eagle blend — a nicotine-, tobacco- and additive-free smoking alternative.
Jade and Pearl, owned by 80-year-old self-described hippie Gloria Star, pioneered the natural product and smoking alternatives industry from her headquarters in Hawthorne, a city of 1,500 residents about 16 miles east of Gainesville.
A former cigarette smoker, Star developed the smoke blend by taking inspiration from the Native American concept of smoking herbs to detox your lungs. Smoking alternatives, like the Sacred Eagle blend, are used to cut down on cravings and help fulfill the urge to smoke.
With the rise of vaping, smoking is becoming more dangerous, she said.
"My grandson and his friends all use the vapes,” Star said. “Now, they're all addicted to nicotine."
Counteracting the rise in popularity of the heavily advertised nicotine vapes, communities are adopting sober-friendly alternatives to cigarettes and alcohol. The push for the sober movement has grown in popularity, mainly due to the pandemic.
Nearly half of 15- to 24-year-olds who reported vaping said they were trying to quit as part of their New Year’s resolutions, according to a 2022 survey by Truth Initiative, a nonprofit focused on tobacco and nicotine addiction.
Jennings Ingram, 30, said COVID-19 pandemic quarantine motivated people to change their lifestyles and look for alternative options.
Ingram, a North Carolina native and host of the “Regenerative Revolution” podcast, said she knows firsthand the benefits of switching out vaping and traditional tobacco for herbal joints. She refers to smoking as a grounding ritual, often something to turn to reach a calm state.
Herbal joints allowed Ingram to still indulge in the smoking ritual without the health-damaging repercussions, she said. The transition from smoking tobacco, nicotine and marijuana can be much easier for those trying to quit if they can still have an alternative.
"I think we all went through a lot in the last couple of years,” Ingram said. “A lot of us are focusing on becoming mentally and physically healthy now."
Finding a like-minded community frequently puts younger people on the path to health and wellness. For Ingram, that means living in a health-conscious community that consumes tea infusions, herbal joints and kava.
"You would not catch anyone drinking a Bud Light or something like that," Ingram said.
However, she said toxic party culture can make it harder for people to make healthy choices.
Having to learn from personal experiences is how sober shifts start to happen. Going through a party phase and deciding to change often comes after a realization that something has gone too far, she said.
"It basically takes hitting a rock bottom to evaluate yourself and your choices and to choose something different," Ingram said.
While some turn to smoking, others turn to drinking.
Thomas Stowell, a 31-year-old bartender at downtown Gainesville craft cocktail bar Cry Baby's, said he’s been in the bartending industry for eight years.
Cry Baby's offers three mocktails on their menu, but on an average night, only 5% of the bar orders to be mocktails, Stowell said. In terms of sober trend predictions, Stowell is not too sure about the rise of the sober movement, he said, considering most people he serves order alcoholic beverages.
"For mocktails, I think they've gotten to where they need to be," Stowell said.
Most restaurants offer mocktails, Stowell said, but they’re never prioritized. Still, they will continue to exist on menus as an option for those who do not want to drink.
But businesses will never consider them profitable enough to overtake alcohol, he said.
"We are not going to possibly make enough money as a business by selling $6 drinks that take a similar amount of effort that the $12 to $16 drinks make," Stowell said.
As for the demographic who order mocktails, Stowell said it’s an even split between the younger and older crowd. He doesn't notice a significant age gap in mocktail drinkers, he said.
For Cait Madry, a 29-year-old Los Angeles based podcaster, weekend benders are out, and mocktails are in. It’s been two years in the making since she traded her Saturday night Margarita for a hangover-free alternative.
Now, she dedicates her time to teaching the younger generation how to swap out unhealthy habits for more health-conscious options. Her podcast, “Clearheaded Co.,” which she co-founded with her partner, Sara Ashcraft, is everyone's guide to sober care.
"Our belief is just like how you know your 10-step skincare routine or your self care routine, when you're not drinking, you should have a sober care routine," Madry said.
The podcast allows those searching for a sober rebrand to sort through the endless options of non-alcoholic beverages and navigate other forms of sober care, such as quit lit — sobriety books aimed to guide those struggling with alcohol abuse.
The overall mission is to explore having fun without the hangover while also experiencing a longer, healthier party life, Madry said.
"I quit drinking two years ago,” Madry said. “The clarity that I gained and was privileged enough to get was life changing."
The catalyst for that change was concluding that being numb and absent spoiled her life's remarkable aspects, affected her personal relationships, family dynamics and, most importantly, her relationship with herself.
The realization that switching out alcoholic beverages for mocktails doesn’t mean becoming boring or sacrificing your fun or aesthetic was one of the many enlightening things Madry learned through her journey toward modern-day sobriety.
During the first year of her sober journey, Madry remembers it as "wild and rough." She now looks back on her self-described "epic journey" with a sense of thrill, knowing that the tough moments she worked through paid off.
She believes self-forgiveness and kindness towards oneself are one of the keys to living a healthy, mindful life.
"Shame doesn't breed evolution," she said.
For those on a sober curious journey, Cait advises approaching sobriety with a kind, guilt-and shame-free attitude, while also honoring your individuality.
"Stay curious, stay questioning, and don't feel like it has to be linear for you," Madry said. "Nothing in life is linear, healing isn't linear, love can't always be linear, and neither is sobriety."
Contact Xenia firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @xeniateju.
Xenia Teju is a third-year journalism major and a staff writer for The Avenue. When she isn't writing for The Alligator, you can find her keeping up with her fashion and lifestyle blog known as ICÔNE COLUMN. She also enjoys listening to music, traveling, hanging out with friends and playing tennis.