The JUUL: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

A JUUL is a brand of electronic cigarette—or "e-cigarette." E-cigarettes have been around for about a decade, and are electronic devices that vaporize a liquid mixture for the user to inhale (often called "vaping"). Most, but not all, e-cigarettes contain nicotine and a mixture of flavorings and other compounds, some of which are harmful and can even cause cancer. E-cigarettes have been marketed as a way to quit smoking, but none have been proven to be safe or effective and most e-cigarette users continue to smoke traditional cigarettes. They look harmless enough—like a flash drive that might contain music or photos. But a JUUL (pronounced like "jewel") contains something more worrisome—highly addictive nicotine— and as the most popular brand of e-cigarette on the market, they have the potential to hook young people on nicotine, and could lead them to turn to traditional cigarettes. Let’s take a look at why this JUUL is no gem. While e-cigarettes have not been proven to be effective at helping smokers quit, there is mounting evidence they are an effective gateway to smoking for young people. E-cigarettes are now the most popular tobacco products among young people, even kids as young as middle school students. These products are often made with fruit, candy and other flavors that appeal to kids. Kids may come for the cotton candy or bubblegum flavor, but they stay and get hooked because of the nicotine, which can even be much higher than the nicotine contained in tobacco cigarettes. In 2016, the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General's report on e-cigarette use among youth shattered the myth that e-cigarettes are harmless and flat-out stated that, "All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults." So, what makes JUULs different? While most e-cigarettes mimic regular cigarettes in shape and size—some even with an LED at the end that lights up red when you puff—JUULs look like a flash drive. They're small, sleek and easy to conceal from parents and teachers. A JUUL appears to the eye to have almost no connection to cigarette smoking. In fact, kids sometimes call it "JUULing," and may think it’s unrelated to smoking or even vaping. But this "wolf in sheep's clothing" delivers all the nicotine and harmful chemicals as bigger, more conspicuous e-cigarettes, all in an assortment of kid-friendly candy colors and flavors. For young people, even those who would never try a cigarette, JUULing might be seen as a fun, harmless and trendy pastime.