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What Is Juul and Is It Better for You Than Smoking?

People are freaking out over this type of e-cigarette that's taking over the market, but that doesn't mean you should use it. Here, a doctor answers the question everyone has on their mind: Is Juul bad for you?


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Over the last few years, e-cigarettes have grown in popularity—and so has their reputation for being a "better for you" option than actual cigarettes. Part of that is due to the fact that hardcore smokers do use them to cut down on their habit, and part of that is due to good marketing. After all, with e-cigs, you can vape anywhere without lighting up or reeking of nicotine afterward. But e-cigarettes, and especially Juul - one of the latest e-cigarette products - are likely responsible for more people getting hooked on nicotine. So, all things considered, is Juul bad for you?

What Is Juul?

Juul is an e-cigarette that came on the market in 2015, and the product itself is similar to other e-cigarettes or vapes, says Jonathan Philip Winickoff, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in family health and smoking cessation at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It has the same ingredients: a liquid filled with nicotine, solvents, and flavorings."

But the USB shape of the device is what makes it so popular with teens and adolescents, who make up the majority of Juul's consumers, says Dr. Winickoff. The design makes it easy to conceal, and it literally plugs right into your computer to heat up and charge. There have been reports of kids using them behind teachers' backs, and some schools have even banned USBs entirely to get Juul out of the classrooms. And yet, this year, Juul is already responsible for more than half of all e-cigarette retail market sales in the U.S., according to a recent Nielsen data report.

The other reason Juul appeals to a younger crowd: It comes in flavors like Crème Brulee, mango, and cool cucumber. Not exactly the tastes a hardened tobacco smoker might be seeking, right? In fact, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer actually condemned Juul in a 2017 letter to the Food and Drug Administration for promoting "flavors that are attractive to young people." In September 2018, the FDA demanded that Juul and other top e-cigarette companies develop plans for curbing teen use. In response, Juul announced this week that it will only offer mint, tobacco, and menthol flavors in stores. The other flavors will be available online only, and customers will have to verify that they're over 18 by giving the last four digits of their social security number.

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