The stories seem to have begun on college campuses, although it’s impossible to pin down the exact sources. According to The Tab, the stories have circulated at New York University, Iowa, and the University of Southern California.
They follow a typical format of viral rumors, referring to a victim who is “a friend,” and filling in detail haphazardly. Like chain letters, the stories morphed as they spread. Most were screenshots of plain text that were attached to social media posts.
One story circulating on social media looked like this:
“announcement: one of chris’ friends friends from college has never smoked weed or cigs but for the past year he has been an addictive juuler like constantly which is basically like all of us and he was just diagnosed with lung cancer and his lungs are completely black and he’s 19 and he’s probably going to die. scotty and a few of my guy friends have thrown their juul away but just wanted to say because if that happened to any of y’all i’d probably off myself”
Lung cancer can occur after many years of exposure to a carcinogenic substance, like the tar in cigarette smoke. It doesn’t happen after a year. In any case, vaping has not been shown to cause cancer.
The products of combustion in cigarette smoke are either absent from e-cigarettes like JUUL, or found in such tiny concentrations that they’re unlikely to cause health problems. The danger of rumors like these is that some JUUL users may switch back to combustible cigarettes, which are proven to cause disease and death.
The statement from JUUL Labs suggests that the company may take legal action if it can find the sources of the rumors. Good luck with that.
JUUL Labs complete public statement follows:
“The claim circulating on social media that individuals’ friends ‘have been diagnosed with cancer as a direct result of the JUUL’ is unsubstantiated and reckless. For all our customers, partners and employees that are on our important mission with us to improve public health, know that we will protect the company and our customers and take legal action as appropriate.
“At JUUL Labs, we care deeply about our customers. Many people in the company and their friends use JUUL as well, so we include ourselves as our customers. We are a mission driven company seeking to eliminate cigarettes by providing a true alternative for adult smokers.”
“JUUL incorporates important technological advances and best practices which include the following; First, JUUL is temperature regulated to minimize the emissions of combustion-related degradation products. Second, we do not add chemicals of concern on key FDA lists such as formaldehyde as ingredients. (Note that nicotine, while on these lists, is included in our product to facilitate switching for adult smokers.) Third, independent third party laboratories have conducted validated analytical tests on the aerosol contents of JUUL and we are excited to present these results within the SRNT scientific forum at the end of this month.
“The best decision is to never start smoking or initiate nicotine-containing products. We stand by our mission to serve as a true alternative to combusted cigarettes for adult smokers. We will continue to respond as necessary to unfounded allegations.”