JUULing Could Be As Dangerous As Smoking a Pack a Day

Some 37 percent of kids don't know it's nicotine they're inhaling when they vape with this trendy device.

In recent years, JUULing, a type of vaping using the e-cigarette JUUL, has been sweeping through high school hallways and bathrooms across the country. A 2018 survey from Truth Initiative shows that 63 percent of 15- to–24-year-old JUUL users don’t know the product always contains nicotine, although the JUUL website notes that each pod is equal to 200 cigarette puffs. That’s like smoking a pack a day.

“It is extremely worrisome that teens and young adults do not know that when they JUUL, they are inhaling an addictive substance,” says Robin Koval, CEO and President of the Truth Initiative, Washington, DC-based nonprofit public health group that aims to put an end to tobacco use. But it’s not surprising—many young people do not purchase their own vape products.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cracked down on JUULing and other types of vaping in recent years and now requires nicotine addictiveness warning labels on vape packaging and ads. In 2018, federal law banned the sale of vaping products to people under 18. More recently, the White House has proposed a ban of flavored e-cigarettes. the For more details on vaping regulations, check out this map outlining the vaping restrictions in each state, which was created by the Public Health Law Center. (If you need to quit smoking, don’t miss the 15 mind-blowing ways your body heals after you quit the habit.)

As with other activities, teenagers are prone to try new things with their friends, and that includes sharing vaping products that their friends may have bought. Like other forms of vaping, the JUUL pods are offered in enticing flavors such as créme bruleé and mango, increasing their appeal to kids. And rather than smelling like an ashtray, JUUL smells pleasant. And then there’s the cool factor—the JUUL device is sleek, available in an array of colors, and resembles a thumb drive that’s easily concealed, so it’s easy to see why they’re popular with teens, the Truth Institute points out. Learn about the 12 things that will happen to your body when you stop vaping.

One factor that could keep JUULs away from kids is that they don’t come cheap.  A JUUL “starter” kit (which includes a USB charger, a warranty, and a four-pack of the flavored JUULpods) costs $49.99 if you buy it online from the company. Refill pods cost $15.95 for a four-pack. Although you need to be 21 years old or older to purchase the device online, and JUUL Labs is committed to combating underage usage of their product, teens are still managing to get their hands on a JUUL.

JUUL is still too new to have any data specific to its risks as a product, but nicotine is known as a highly addictive substance and the Truth Initiative reports that it can alter nerve cell functioning in teen development. Here are eight ways that JUUL may cause lung cancer. In case you were wondering, here’s why even smart teens do dumb things.

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Sources
  • Truth Initiative: "JUUL e-cigarettes gain popularity among youth, but awareness of nicotine presence remains low."
  • Robin Koval, CEO, President, Truth Initiative, Washington, DC
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on September 19, 2019