What is a JUUL?

JUUL vaping devices splashed onto the market in 2015 with the stated mission of “improving the lives of the one billion adult smokers” on the planet. It claimed its primary mission was to help those already smoking traditional cigarettes and tobacco products to quit smoking.

Less than two years later, this latecomer to the already burgeoning vaping market had grown to become a $5-billion vaping empire. The San Francisco-based startup now controls more than three-quarters of the U.S. vaping market.

However, JUUL acquired this lion’s share not by converting adult smokers, but by creating a new generation of nicotine addicts through shrewd and aggressive social media campaigns, a clever and easily disguisable product design, and other business strategies that targeted U.S. teens and children.

What chemicals are in a JUUL?

The liquid inside JUUL cartridges contains glycerol, propylene glycol, flavoring, benzoic acid, and 40 milligrams of nicotine.

JUUL nicotine level compared to cigarettesMedical professionals are very concerned because JUUL delivers higher concentrations of nicotine than other vaping devices. According to a study published in The Lancet, the liquid in JUUL is 5% nicotine by volume, which is more than twice the concentration of nicotine in similar devices like the Blu vape cartridge (2.4% nicotine). This increases the risk of addiction; in fact, a study done by the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists showed that nicotine is about as addictive as cocaine and even more addictive than alcohol and barbiturates (anti-anxiety drugs).

Not only is nicotine highly addictive, but numerous scientific studies show it is also toxic to fetuses and is known to impair brain and lung development if used during adolescence. Among the negative health effects to fetuses and adolescents are:

  • It is well-understood that nicotine can affect multiple organs in a developing fetus, potentially with life-long consequences. [01]
  • Nicotine is genotoxic and its toxic effects continue to manifest in a fetus even after exposure has been discontinued. [02]
  • Prenatal nicotine exposure can result in adverse effects on a developing fetus, which can include disruptions in the normal development of the endocrine, reproductive, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurologic systems. Most adverse effects will persist throughout the child’s life and are irreversible. [03]
  • Nicotine is a neuroteratogen and “compromises the development of critical neural pathways in the developing brain.” [06]
  • Some of the neonatal and childhood complications associated with nicotine exposure include low birth weight, SIDS, Asthma, decrease pulmonary function, increased risk of respiratory illness, upper respiratory illness, increased incidence of hypertension, increased risk of postnatal obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, renal dysfunction, smaller head circumference, cognitive and affective disorders, attention deficit disorder, and behavior problems. [03], [04], [05], [06], [07], [08]
  • Prenatal exposure to nicotine also “primes the adolescent brain for depression and for nicotine addiction in future years.” [04]
  • Exposure to nicotine in utero has been linked to several neurodevelopmental and behavioral effects including “poorer academic outcomes, deficits in learning, memory reading, language development, global intelligence, and scholastic achievement.” [03]

Nicotine also interacts with any cancer cells present in the body in a way that makes cancers worse, according to Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., Director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control and Education. Nicotine also stimulates the nervous system and cardiovascular system, which leads to heart disease. Kids who use nicotine have more asthma and more days off school. There’s also evidence linking vaping with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and other permanent damage.

While other brands use a chemically modified form called “freebase nicotine,” JUULs use “nicotine salts” that more closely resemble the natural structure of nicotine found in tobacco leaves. This makes the nicotine more readily absorbed into the bloodstream and makes the vapor less harsh so that it is easier to inhale more nicotine for longer periods of time.

Dr. Glantz told CNBC that although JUUL and other vape products “don’t have a lot of the bad things in tobacco, they have other bad things in them.”

In addition to the five main vape liquid ingredients, 42 additional chemicals have been identified in the vapor, several of which are known carcinogens.

JUUL pods contain a greater amount of benzoic acid, 44.8 mg/mL, compared to other vaping brands, which are in the range of 0.2 to 2 mg/mL. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzoic acid is known to cause coughs, sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting if exposure is constant, which is the case when using a JUUL. This is due to how JUULs utilize the properties of benzoic acid to increase the potency of the nicotine salts in its vape liquid.

JUUL redesigns the vape device

JUUL E-cigaretteJUUL devices have two components: the vaping unit, which holds a rechargeable battery and vaporizer, and the “pod,” a small disposable cartridge that contains the vape juice or “pod juice.” However, the novelty of the JUUL is in its design.

Company engineers fashioned this new line of vape devices to look like a USB flash drive. JUULs can also be recharged by plugging them into a USB port on a computer, just as you would a flash drive. JUUL’s resemblance to a USB flash drive allows high school and even middle school students to hide their vape devices in plain sight.

Adult smokers who start vaping as a way to quit smoking would conceivably want a device that mimics the look, feel and even the flavor of a conventional tobacco cigarette. But JUUL designed a device with none of those qualities, possibly because it wanted to create unique and special appeal among U.S. youth. If that was the plan, it worked out extremely well for JUUL.

JUUL Colors and Pod Flavors

JUUL devices are available in a variety of colors and can even be covered with custom skins that feature school colors and mascots, artwork, photos of animals, cartoons, and even religious figures, to name a few.

JUUL pods flavorsJUUL and other vape companies sell JUUL pods in a variety of fruit, candy, and other sweet flavors that appeal to children and teens. Fruit Loops, Strawberry Milk, Pumpkin Donut, Pancake Syrup, and Bubble Gum are some of the hundreds of pod juice flavors available for JUULs.

Critics often point to these “fun” flavors as evidence that JUUL never really intended to target adults as its main consumer base.

JUUL marketing to minors?

A team of Stanford University researchers that study the impact of tobacco advertising conducted a comprehensive analysis of the marketing techniques JUUL used right out of the gate all the way through 2018. They concluded that JUUL’s marketing “was patently youth-oriented,” especially in the first six months and becoming more “muted” but still effective in youth markets thereafter.

JUUL aggressively exploited social media channels – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – where U.S. school children and teens spend much of their time, to push its vaping products. The company paid social media influencers – accounts with large followings – to promote JUULs. It also created scores of JUUL-related hashtags that were included on images and videos of young people hanging out, having fun, and vaping.

As Vox notes, even as JUUL’s advertising started to shift in 2016, becoming arguably a little more mature, adults were still notably absent from all of the company’s advertising.

The JUUL epidemic

The impact JUUL has had on U.S. public health is staggering. Recent studies have found that vaping among high school students doubled between 2017 and 2018the highest increase in smoking, drinking, and drug use ever recorded in the U.S. The surge in vaping among U.S. middle and high school students correlates directly with JUUL’s appearance on the market and its savvy youth-oriented marketing campaigns.

Vaping Statistics Amoung Youth

“Indeed, the ubiquity of this one product became so entrenched so quickly that it gave rise to its own verb – juuling,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Scott Gottlieb said in a recent speech.

The FDA says the rate of juuling and other vape device use among U.S. youth has become a national epidemic, reversing decades of progress in preventing teen smoking.

Smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to a record low of 8 percent, but vaping has more than filled that void, creating the largest generation of nicotine addicts since the early 1960s. The total number of middle and high school students using vape devices in 2018 rose to 3.6 million — an increase of 1.5 million students vaping compared to the previous year.

Dr. Gottlieb said that JUUL and the vaping industry at large could face harsh regulatory actions amounting to “an existential threat” if 2019 data shows that youth vaping continues to rise.

Seizure risk

The FDA started notifying the public in April 2019 that some people, “especially youth and young adults” are reporting seizures following vape device use. Seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine poisoning and have been reported in medical journals, but in association with the accidental swallowing of nicotine vape liquids, such as when toddlers get hold of a vape pod.

According to the FDA, the 35 reports it has received of vape device-related seizures have occurred after vaping. The agency says that’s enough to warrant, noting that the reports may not represent all the cases that occur.

A report one parent submitted to the FDA states:

“After inhaling on a Juul device, of which I was unaware he was using, my teenage son preceded to have a grand mal seizure … I heard him crash to the floor in the room above me. I reached him as he was fully seizing, convulsions, turning blue, eyes rolled up in his head. He was unconscious once the convulsions stopped, about a minute after they probably started. He does not remember anything until starting to come to in the ambulance. Paramedics found the Juul device underneath him and when I asked him about it at the hospital, he admitted using it right before the seizure. This is a perfectly healthy teenager with no underlying issues.”

What can I do?

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett are handling cases involving injuries related to vaping. We are looking at cases involving adolescent and young adult addiction, nicotine poisoning, seizures, strokes, heart attacks, heart problems, lung/respiratory problems, mental health/behavior problems, and suicide related to the use of JUUL vaping devices. If you have these type cases, we would like to work with you.



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