Juul E-Cigarettes Leave a Cloud of Addiction and Potential Health Risks
According to Juul Labs, makers of the most popular e-cigarette on the market, Juul devices were developed to provide adult smokers with an alternative to traditional cigarettes. But the company has come under fire from healthcare professionals, parents, and government officials for the potential harm its products may cause.
Marketing to Teens
“Hook ‘em while they’re young” is a phrase that’s closely associated with the tobacco industry, but it may have helped Juul capture over three-quarters of the U.S. e-cigarette industry. Juul e-cigarettes seem tailor-made for teens. Their sleek and discreet design resembles a USB flash drive, making them easy to conceal from parents or teachers. The disposable pods come in a variety of kid-friendly flavors, and Juul e-cigarettes don’t produce the same noxious odor and lingering smoke as traditional cigarettes, meaning it’s easier to use them in smoking-restricted areas without drawing attention.
Even the marketing of Juul devices appears aimed at drawing in teen users. A Stanford research study into the impact of tobacco advertising concluded that Juul’s marketing was “patently youth-oriented,” frequently depicting young and attractive models in fun, trendy locations. Juul’s early advertising relied heavily on social media, where teens spend a majority of their time. The company even hired social media influencers – users with especially large followings – to spread its brand even further.
Trivializing a Dangerously Addictive Chemical
Juul Labs is quick to point out the nicotine in their devices has not been shown to cause cancer, but they are careful to avoid saying their products are a “safer” alternative than cigarettes. For one, nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that can cause serious dependency after only a few days of exposure. This is negligible for adults who are already cigarette smokers, but for teens who are trying Juuls to fit in or act “cool,” it could lead to a lifelong nicotine dependency that includes other tobacco products.
Not only do Juul pods contain nicotine, they contain a deceptively massive dose of the chemical. Despite their small and unassuming size, each Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. It’s easy to go through an entire pod or more over the course of a single day, turning teens into the equivalent of a pack-a-day smoker almost instantly.
Introducing Unknown Health Risks
Studies have also shown that harmful chemicals called acetals are released when the nicotine infused liquid (or “e-liquid”) in Juul pods is heated, potentially irritating or damaging the user’s lungs. This can cause severe trauma to a person’s respiratory system, particularly if the victim’s bodies are still developing as is the case with adolescents.
Evidence has also shown that nicotine vaporization devices like the Juul are tied to a rise in stroke and heart attack risks. In late July 2019, a Connecticut man suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, which he claims was caused by a 2-pod-a-day Juul addiction that started in high school. The same month, 8 Wisconsin teens were hospitalized with extreme cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. All of the injured teens had a history of e-cigarette use, though Juul wasn’t mentioned specifically.
Getting into Bed with Big Tobacco
Until recently, Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers have had vocal defenders who say that while e-cigarettes aren’t the safest alternative to smoking, their intentions and motivations are far more altruistic than those of Big Tobacco. That statement may or may not have been true at one point, but the tobacco industry has seen the future, and are buying in on the ground floor. In late 2018, tobacco giant Altria (parent company of Phillip Morris) paid $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul. Given what we know about the shady actions taken by the tobacco industry throughout history, it may be safest to assume that where there’s smoke (or vapor) there’s fire.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons