Anti-smoking campaigns have, over the past two decades, made significant progress in their goal to end cigarette smoking among younger people. The recent surge of e-cigarettes, more commonly known as vaping or vapes, however, has seen this remarkable health initiative start to reverse. One brand of vapes leads the pack at 60% market share per dollar spent – Juul. Social media is replete with images, tweets and videos of teenagers and college students vaping – often in schools, or even in front of teachers.
The vaping industry touts itself as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the question on doctors’ and parents’ minds is: how bad are Juul pods for their users?
Juul and Adolescents
The main health risk Juul presents is that it is taking off like wildfire among younger users. Using a Juul is a verb unto itself for teenagers. Anecdotal evidence from teachers and school staff across the country suggest that students are using Juuls in bathroom stalls, and even classrooms. The fact that Juul brands itself as an alternative to smoking means that, for many young users, it occupies a different space than normal cigarettes. Many users aren’t even aware that Juul pods contain nicotine in the first place.
Another issue is that the Juul device itself is discreet. Since it uses a USB to charge to heat the liquid, it often slips by unknowing parents or teachers. The design team behind Juul specifically created the device to be sleek and attractive, which increases its ability to go unnoticed and appeal to teenagers.
Juul vs. Cigarettes
The makers of Juul – JUUL Labs – stated to MensHealth.com that they created the device to offer smokers a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Research on vaping is still in its infancy, but the preliminary results suggest this claim is naïve at best. Since vapes like the Juul heat a liquid instead of burning tobacco, they are free from some of the harsher chemicals present in cigarette smoke. At the same time, however, this does not mean that they are risk-free.
Health Risks from Juul
The primary risk from Juul comes from nicotine. Among experts, the nicotine presence in Juul is surprising. A single Juul pod – which can last anywhere from a couple of days to a week – contains about two cigarette packs worth of nicotine. While Juul and other e-cigarettes are free from some of the most dangerous carcinogens found in tobacco, nicotine is highly addictive in any form, and Juul is no exception.
The biggest fear of public health officials is that Juul use among youth will lead to traditional cigarette smoking. Though there is little research in this so far – especially as the craze is still new – it does not change the fact that Juul on its own has health risks for users of any age. One case study, for example, found an 18-year-old girl had developed respiratory failure linked to vaping. While this was the first published case found linking Juul – or vapes in general – to lung disease, it raises an alarm for doctors and researchers.
The Future of Research
As of now, it is still too early to say exactly what the health effects of Juul will or could be. It is safe to say, though, that Juul carries health risks that would not otherwise be present for a non-smoker. Using Juul is safer than cigarettes in many ways but is still more dangerous than using neither in the first place. Regardless, it is concerning to public health officials, doctors, and parents across the country that Juul use is so prevalent among adolescents. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and unrestricted recreational use can develop an intense physical dependence.
The exploding vape pen attorneys at Bentley & More encourage everyone to avoid Juul pods, vape pens and e-cigarettes all together.