Over the last few years, Juul known as e-cigarettes have grown in popularity—and so has their reputation for being a “better for you” option than actual cigarettes.
Part of that is due to the fact that hardcore smokers do use them to cut down on their habit, and part of that is due to good marketing.
After all, with e-cigs, you can vape anywhere without lighting up or reeking of nicotine afterward. But e-cigarettes, and especially Juul—one of the latest e-cigarette products—are likely responsible for more people getting hooked on nicotine. So all things considered, is Juul bad for you?
What Is Juul?
Juul is an e-cigarette that came on the market in 2015, and the product itself is pretty similar to other e-cigarettes or vapes, a liquid filled with nicotine, solvents, and flavorings.”
But the USB shape of the device is what makes it so popular with teens and adolescents, who make up the majority of Juul’s consumers.
The design makes it easy to conceal, and it literally plugs right into your computer to heat up and charge.
There have been reports of kids using them behind teachers’ backs, and some schools have even banned USBs entirely to get Juul out of the classrooms.
And yet, this year, the device is already responsible for more than half of all e-cigarette retail market sales in the U.S., according to a recent Nielsen data report.
The other reason it appeals to a younger crowd: It comes in flavors like Crème Brulee, mango, and cool cucumber.
Not exactly the tastes a hardened tobacco smoker might be seeking, right? In September 2018, the FDA demanded that Juul and other top e-cigarette companies develop plans for curbing teen use.
In response, Juul announced this week that it will only offer mint, tobacco, and menthol flavors in stores. The other flavors will be available online only, and customers will have to verify that they’re over 18 by giving the last four digits of their social security number.
In addition, the company shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and will only use its Twitter for “non-promotional communications.”
Juul isn’t exactly cost-prohibitive; a “starter kit,” including the e-cigarette, USB charger, and four flavor pods, sells for about $50, while individual pods ring up at around $15.99. But those add up.
The average Juul smoker spends $180 per month on Juul pods, according to a survey by LendEDU, a financial education company. That’s less than the amount of money survey respondents had formerly been spending on traditional nicotine products like cigarettes (an average of $258/month)—but the habit still isn’t cheap.
It’s clear the product won’t do your bank account any favors, but is Juul bad for you and your health?
Is Juul Bad for You?
It’s hard to outdo the cigarette in terms of health risks, and yes, there are fewer toxic compounds found in Juul than in cigarettes, says Dr. Winickoff.
But it’s still made with some very bad-for-you ingredients. “It’s not just harmless water vapor and flavor,” says Dr. Winickoff. “Not only is it made with N-Nitrosonornicotine, a dangerous Group I carcinogen (and the most carcinogenic substance we know of), you’re also inhaling Acrylonitrile, which is a highly poisonous compound used in plastics and adhesives and synthetic rubbers.”
The nicotine in it is also specially engineered—with a proton group that attaches to it—to taste mild and be inhaled easily (likely another reason for its popularity with teens). And how much nicotine is in a Juul will blow your mind. “You can inhale a whole package worth of nicotine without even thinking twice,” says Dr. Winickoff.
That makes the device incredibly addictive, so it’s not the kind of thing you want to dabble in or experiment, with the amount of nicotine in each pod, you could easily get hooked within a week. “In fact, the younger you are, the more quickly you get addicted,” he adds. “It changes your brain to be nicotine-hungry by upping the regulation of receptors in the reward center of the brain, and there’s some good evidence that nicotine addiction itself potentiates, or increases, addiction to other substances.” Which means it’ll be even harder to quit, one of the most explicit Juul side effects.
ong>What are side effects of Juul
The e-cigarette brand has only been on the market for three years, so right now doctors and researchers don’t really know the Juul side effects and what health risks the product might lead to.
That said, there are known side effects of nicotine inhalation. “It can cause coughing and wheezing, as well as asthma attacks, Not to mention, puffing just one e-cigarette has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology (researchers found it to increase adrenaline levels in the heart, which could lead to heart rhythms issues, heart attacks, and even death).
Recently, an 18-year-old who had been vaping for about three weeks made the news when she ended up in the hospital for respiratory failure.
Doctors diagnosed her with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or “wet lung,” which is when the lungs get inflamed due to an allergic reaction to dust or chemicals (in this case, the e-cigarette ingredients).
One other major issue? You might think you’re vaping Juul, but because there’s so little regulation around e-cigarettes, you might not actually know what you’re inhaling.
At the end of the day, there’s no clear-cut answer to “is Juul bad for you?” If you’re a long-time smoker who’s trying to quit, Juul or e-cigarettes could be an option to help wean you off.
But that doesn’t mean they’re safe. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone who hasn’t smoked before to ever try the device,” says Dr. Winickoff. “Stick to breathing good, clean air.”