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10 Lies and Myths About Juuling Exposed

Jim McDonald
May 9, 2018

The JUUL is a small e-cigarette or vaporizer that delivers nicotine almost as well as a cigarette, which makes it effective for people who want to replace smoking with a safer nicotine source.

Juuling is vaping, and the JUUL is an e-cigarette. Some users refer to the act of vaping a JUUL as “juuling.” And some who first began vaping with the JUUL call all forms of vaping juuling. But the JUUL works like all vapes: a battery-powered device heats a coil that vaporizes liquid that is drawn into the coil with a wick. The e-liquid contains a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine (or both), flavorings, and nicotine.

Because of its popularity, the JUUL has attracted a lot of attention — not all of it good. Tobacco control groups say juuling is an epidemic, and have accused manufacturer JUUL Labs of designing the stealthy vape for teens. But its small size and light weight are benefits to vapers who want convenient, pocketable devices.

There is a lot of misinformation about the JUUL. Some incorrect beliefs are just myths, rumors or misconceptions, but some are outright lies. Unfortunately, it’s often trusted people delivering this misinformation, like school officials and doctors. Frequently they themselves have been misinformed, and are just sharing someone else’s “facts.”

How do you separate the juuling lies from the facts? We can help!

Myth #1: Juuling is just as dangerous as smoking

Juul_cigarette

Is juuling bad for you? “Vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” says Professor John Newton of Public Health England. U.S. health authorities like the American Cancer Society now agree with Public Health England that switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits.

If vaping has some well-hidden long-term risk, it might be decades before it’s discovered — but that’s unlikely based on the extensive knowledge we already have. Evidence to date suggests vaping’s risk profile is similar to pharmaceutical nicotine products, and therefore unlikely to pose serious health risks.

The risks of nicotine itself are well understood. Many people mistakenly believe that nicotine is a serious health hazard. But it’s actually the smoke — the products of combustion, especially tar and carbon monoxide — that cause the harms from smoking cigarettes. Some people, like pregnant women and people with heart disease, should avoid nicotine. But for most healthy adults, nicotine isn’t much riskier than caffeine.

Myth #2: JUUL causes cancer and popcorn lung

juul-causes-cancer-and-popcorn-lung

Fear and uncertainty are powerful things, and JUUL has faced unfounded accusations of marketing a dangerous product. Early in 2018, they responded publicly to a viral online rumor that juuling causes lung cancer. Lung cancer, of course, takes decades to develop, and experts don’t believe that vaping causes cancer.

Popcorn lung is an unusual and deadly condition first observed among some workers in microwave popcorn factories. Its real name is bronchiolitis obliterans, or obliterative bronchiolitis. It’s caused when inhaled chemicals scar the smallest airways within the lungs (bronchioles) and reduce their capacity and efficiency.

There is concern that e-liquid containing the flavoring chemicals diacetyl and acetyl propionyl could cause popcorn lung. JUUL’s e-liquid doesn’t contain those chemicals though. And more importantly, the small amounts found in some e-liquids have never led to a diagnosis of popcorn lung in a vaper. No cigarette smoker has ever been diagnosed with bronchiolitis either, despite cigarette smoke containing far more diacetyl than any vapor product.

juul-most-popular-vape-for-teenagers

JUUL is the most popular vape with everyone. Singling out teenagers is a meaningless claim. It is illegal for minors to purchase the JUUL, but it’s also illegal for them to buy any e-cigarette — or for that matter, beer, liquor, marijuana, or any illicit drug. To the endless frustration of parents the world over, teenagers always manage to find ways to get hold of things they want to experiment with.

And experimenting is what they’re doing. Even the recent Truth Initiative survey — which alarmists have used to whip up fear about juuling — found that only 21 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds even recognized the JUUL. And just 7 percent had ever tried it. “Ever tried” doesn’t mean regular use either — it means even just one puff. Kids try things. But more are trying (and regularly using) alcohol and marijuana than the JUUL.

JUUL is carefully marketed to adults — almost painfully so. The packaging is clean and simple. The flavors are very plain. And the product isn’t cheap. A JUUL starter kit (one JUUL unit and four pods) costs $50 — hardly a teenage impulse purchase. Recently, JUUL Labs announced a comprehensive strategy to combat youth use.

Myth #4: JUUL sells kid-appealing flavors like cotton candy and gummy bear

Juul & pods

That claim is the result of dishonest activists or sloppy reporting, or both. While many adult vapers enjoy candy-flavored e-liquid, they don’t vape it from JUUL pods. JUUL’s e-liquid flavors are Classic Tobacco, Classic Menthol, Cool Mint, Virginia Tobacco, Mango, Cool Cucumber, Fruit Medley, and Creme Brulee.

Myth #5: Vaping a JUUL pod is like smoking a whole pack of cigarettes

Pod_cigarettes

No amount of juuling or vaping is like smoking any cigarettes at all — because e-cig vapor doesn’t contain smoke. However, vapers do absorb about as much nicotine from each JUUL pod as from a pack of cigarettes. But what’s often not explained is that juulers don’t vape the whole pod at once. Vaping an entire pod takes about the same number of puffs as smoking a whole pack of cigarettes — hundreds. Even a very determined juuler would take hours to vape a whole pod.

Myth #6: The nicotine in JUUL causes brain damage in teenagers

nicotine-in-juul-causes-brain-damage-in-teenagers

There has never been evidence proving that nicotine or smoking cause brain damage. However, the theory that nicotine affects adolescent brain development is an old one, based entirely on studies of adolescent rodents. There has never been any study of humans that shows cognitive impairment from nicotine use, and many scientists consider animal models unreliable as proxies for human physiology anyway.

That doesn’t mean that teenage nicotine use is a good thing however. Even though nicotine is a relatively mild drug, it may cause dependence with regular use.

Myth #7: The nicotine in JUUL makes you high

Juul_lifestyle

Describing the effect of juuling as “getting “high” is a wild exaggeration. Nicotine can make a new user feel a little lightheaded, but that quickly dissipates. Juul is partly so popular because it delivers nicotine like a cigarette — quickly. Smokers are the target JUUL market, and this is a benefit for them since the powerful delivery makes it easier to replace smoking with juuling.

The e-liquid in the JUUL is made with “nicotine salts,” a chemical formulation that reduces the pH of the liquid, making a high concentration of nicotine less harsh and more palatable for the user. High-strength nicotine is a necessity in a device as small as the JUUL. The tiny battery and pod — each one holds just 0.7 mL of e-liquid — would be used up very quickly if the JUUL didn’t have a high nicotine concentration to allow the user to take smaller puffs.

Myth #8: Minors can easily buy from the JUUL website

Juul_lifestyle

JUUL Labs only sells online to adults 21 or older, even in states where the legal age is 18. The age verification system on their commerce site is among the most advanced anywhere, and they don’t allow purchases with debit or prepaid credit cards.

Sales of vapor products like JUUL to minors have been federally illegal since 2016 (and were illegal in 48 states before that). The FDA Center for Tobacco Products does regular checks of retail stores and vaping websites to verify compliance with the age law.

Myth #9: JUUL can be used with cannabis oil and other illegal drugs

juul-can-be-used-with-cannabis-oil-and-other-illegal-drugs

JUUL pods are factory sealed and aren’t designed to be refillable, but they can be opened and refilled with some effort. However, the delicate wick and coil in the JUUL are designed to vaporize standard e-liquid, not thick oils like marijuana extracts. Those are vaped from vape pens with atomizers made especially for use with oils and waxes.

Any consumable product could potentially be tampered with or spiked with something. Worrying about JUULs being laced with illicit drugs is like fearing bottled drinks being spiked with alcohol. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s happening.

Myth #10: The sudden panic over JUUL is a response to a real problem

Juul_lifestyle

A campaign to generate fear and doubt about juuling is underway, propelled by groups opposed to all vaping and nicotine use, and aimed at scaring understandably concerned parents. But the evidence is anecdotal.

“The media reports of a teenage juuling ‘epidemic’ do not add up with population studies that show regular use of these products by never smokers to be very low,” University of Waterloo (Ontario) sociologist Amelia Howard told Vaping360. “The juuling stories have the classic hallmarks of a moral panic: widespread fear based on exaggerated risk.”

JUUL is often accused of “marketing to youth,” and fears are being stoked that juuling and vaping are encouraging kids to take up smoking. But teenage smoking has dropped to its lowest level since surveys began measuring it.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24.6 percent of 12th graders smoked cigarettes daily in 1997. But in 2017, just 4.2 percent smoked daily. And teen vaping itself has been declining. From 2015 to 2016, the number of middle and high school students who reported using e-cigarettes dropped almost 30 percent.

“This needs to be understood in light of the politics of disruptive innovation,” says Amelia Howard. “Vaping solves the problem of smoking, and stands to make cigarettes — and the treatment of tobacco addiction — obsolete. JUUL, as an attractive mass-market product, is particularly threatening to existing interests, and a perfect target.”

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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GARY TRUDELL
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GARY TRUDELL

You have a great product, smoked cigarettes for thirty five years – starting this e-cigarette & quit cigarettes, THANK YOU SO MUCH !!! 😎

MiJuulie
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MiJuulie

You may want to update myth #9 following recent news regarding outside investment and increased lobbying efforts.

Timmy
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Timmy

Switching to JUULS helped me quit habitually smoking marijuana. Every day my body and mind feel better. Anybody that doesn’t realize that carbon based smoke is the main result of cancer is unscientific and shallow minded. You could smoke a tomato, a healthy fruit (or veggie), and end up with lung cancer due to the carbon sludge, not the chemicals. Get informed people, stay smart, and think original thoughts!

Panes
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Panes

Marrijuana has medicinal properties far more natural and better than any chemical vaping products I would bet my life on it !

Traci PREJEAN
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Traci PREJEAN

I have taken the pod apart. Learned on YouTube. Tried refilling with my old vape juice that I loved. Chocolate peppermint! Worked once, then tasted burnt. Knew what I had to do, take apart, change out cotton, etc. Too much trouble, plus the thicker liquid did not “pull” as well, so I’ll stick with my mint. Also, some of you may not be aware that there are off-brand pods compatible with Juul that are less expensive and easier to use. Just a tip. I’ve quit smoking for almost 6 months and DON’T MISS CIGARETTES OR THE SMELL OF MY CLOTHES… Read more »

Louis A DeJesus
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Louis A DeJesus

I’m 45 of age I’ve been smoking since the age of 12 so 33 years. Over the past 8 years I’ve tried the patch the pill one of them giant battery Vapes that gave me walking pneumonia some type of fluid in my lung and infection, always returned to cigarettes within a week . I purchased my first juul at the end of May 2019. I experienced a slight sore throat the first day/morning. The first two months I smoked 1/2 pack of cigarettes along with it even though I would consider that an extreme cut back from a pack… Read more »

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