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JUUL e-cigarettes have become a dominant industry force in the vaping market. Research shows that over one-quarter of high school students and over 10% of middle school students currently vape JUUL devices. Contrary to popular belief, JUUL pods aren’t harmless water vapor. They contain moderate to heavy amounts of nicotine, and science is still wary about their overall safety.
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Last modified on: May 9th, 2020
Over the past few years, researchers have discovered a plethora of health issues that may be linked to e-cigarette devices. While the recent vaping scare that claimed sixty-eight lives in the United States turned out to be related to vaping marijuana products, the long-term effects of e-cigarette usage are still emerging.
Here’s what you need to know about JUUL pods and e-cigarettes, and why smoking these devices may cause you or your loved ones harm.
Electronic cigarettes (or vaping devices) are battery-operated devices that heat up small, nicotine-filled “pods” or liquid and produce an inhalable aerosol. The nicotine pods themselves can contain a variety of chemicals — including some carcinogenic chemicals. The exact combination of chemicals in the nicotine pods differs between brands and pod producers.
JUUL is a brand of e-cigarette that currently dominates among people who “vape” (i.e., smoke electronic cigarettes). In total, JUUL owns 72% of the total e-cigarette market share, and teens make up a large part of that market. According to current market research, people who are 15 to 17 years old are 16x more likely to smoke JUUL devices than people above 25.
There are some unique features that set JUUL devices apart from other e-cigarettes. They contain disposable pods, have high nicotine content, and are relatively inexpensive.
One of the key characteristics of JUUL devices is nicotine pods. These are replaceable units that fit onto the end of the USB-powered JUUL device, and they contain the nicotine liquid that users inhale as aerosol. Instead of using freebase nicotine like many of the other vapes on the market, JUUL devices use nicotine salts. These are rapidly absorbed by the lungs and give a hit similar to that of a cigarette.
All e-cigarette brands are addictive since they contain nicotine — a substance more addictive than cocaine. But JUUL may be the single most addictive e-cigarette on the market. JUUL pods contain a whopping 5% nicotine. That means that a single JUUL pod is essentially equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. While other leading e-cigarette brands (i.e., Blu, Vuse, etc.) contain anywhere from 2% to 4.5% nicotine.
In addition, JUUL pods use “nicotine salts” instead of “freebase nicotine.” This combination of nicotine and benzoic acid helps the nicotine absorb into the bloodstream faster, and it makes the hit less “harsh.” This unique combination of high nicotine levels and easy inhalation makes JUUL pods particularly addictive for teens and adults.
According to two studies released by The American Heart Association, vaping may actually be more dangerous for your heart than traditional cigarettes. In one study, 500 healthy adults ages 21 to 45 (with no existing heart condition) were tested for cholesterol. In the 45 were e-cig smokers, bad cholesterol levels were significantly higher than in the 285 traditional cigarette smokers.
The second study measured the heart’s blood flow after being introduced to both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. According to the findings, e-cigarettes actually reduced the heart’s blood flow more significantly than traditional cigarettes.
In other words, e-cigarettes certainly have a negative impact on the heart, despite containing fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes.
Unfortunately, e-cigarettes haven’t been on the market as long as traditional cigarettes. This means that there aren’t any long-term studies of lung damage among e-cigarette smokers. Still, research points towards e-cigarettes having a negative effect on the health of the lungs. One study found that people who vape are 30% more likely to develop lung disease than non-vapers. Studies also show that teens who vape are more likely to have asthma, wheezing, and coughing than their non-vaping peers.
JUUL pods may come with their own set of risks. The CDC notes that benzoic acid can cause nausea, vomiting, coughing, and sore throat when you’re exposed to it consistently. While we don’t have enough long-term evidence to throw lung cancer into the mix, a new study shows that vaping can cause DNA damage in mice — which could potentially mean carcinogenic elements are at play.
Vaping e-cigarettes of JUUL pods may seem safer than cigarettes, but the simple answer is that we aren’t sure whether that’s true. Long-term research has yet to be conducted, and current vapers are going to be future baselines for the safety of vaping. Still, we do have enough research to conclude that vaping can cause damage. It can reduce blood flow to the heart, elevate blood pressure, damage the lungs, and create a crushing cycle of addiction in users.