Can Juul Help You Quit Smoking?

OCTOBER 30, 2018 / IN QUITTING SMOKING / 8 MIN READ

Written by SAMMY BRICHARD
Medically reviewed by Dr. Maroof Ahmed, MD on October 30, 2018

When I quit smoking I decided that I’d do it without an e-cigarette – mainly because I knew you could use those inside, so I’d probably have ended up smoking even more. And partially because they don’t suit my vibe.

One of the testimonials on Juul’s website calls it “The iPhone of E-cigs.” I can see why. The sleek, minimalist design and obvious focus on technology make Juul seem like the Apple of e-cigarette companies. These vaping devices look kind of like flash drives, and they’re the latest fad in the e-cigarette market.

Which makes me want to find out more about them…

What is Juul?

Juul vaporizers are similar to regular e-cigarettes. They are designed by Juul Labs (now a separate company to PAX labs, who were formerly known as Ploom) in order to help cigarette smokers quit. The idea is the same as vaping – allowing smokers to cut down on traditional cigarettes and slowly reduce the nicotine levels they are dependent on.

Like e-cigarettes, they come in a range of different flavours; apparently creme brûlée is something of a favourite. Nicotine is a very associative addiction and I always used to associate finishing a meal with smoking cigarettes – so I guess that would have been dessert sorted. ‘Cool cucumber’ flavour sounds less appealing.

Juul boasts of an intelligent heating mechanism, engineered to minimize combustion. A starter kit is available online, setting you back £29.99. Juul was founded by Adam Bowen and James Monsees – both hold an MS in product design from Stanford. No wonder they are sleeker, more discreet and more advanced than other e-cigarettes.

Background – the Rise of Juul

The Boston Globe has called Juul “the most widespread phenomenon you’ve likely never heard of” and I can see why. Until recently, I’d never heard of ‘Juuling.’ It’s a relatively new product, but within two years Juul has gone from a start-up in San Francisco to amassing nearly half of the e-cigarette market.

Of course, that market isn’t as big as the tobacco industry just yet, but this still seems very impressive – so I decided to do some digging. Turns out that Juul has an extraordinary marketing strategy which shook up the retail e-cigarette market in the United States. In particular, innovative use of social media (particularly Instagram, Twitter and YouTube) plus a great deal of affiliate marketing was responsible for rocketing Juuls to the forefront of the e-cigarette arena. Between 2015 – 2017 they basically cornered the American market.

Juul Vs Normal Vaping Vs Traditional Cigarettes

Let’s start off with a comparison of cigarette smoking versus normal vaping for this section – I’ll then go into detail about how Juul’s differ from typical e-cigarettes.

Vaping (or smoking e-cigarettes) was conceived as a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. Usually, people vape whilst trying to cut down or quit – there is a strong case which suggests vaping is not as harmful as cigarette smoking. However, e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for scientists to fully understand the health risks. Currently, it is suggested that vaping can cause serious damage to our lungs.

Like you would expect from all nicotine products, e-cigarettes are very addictive. Users can get even more nicotine from vaping than they would from normal cigarettes – either by increasing the strength of e-liquid used (which is the source of nicotine in regular e-cigarettes) or increasing the voltage of the device. Research warns us to be wary – this study finds no beneficial effects of vaping at follow-up for either smoking cessation or smoking reduction.

So how does Juuling differ from vaping? Whereas e-cigarettes must regularly be refilled with e-liquid, Juuls rely on replaceable ‘Juul pods’ – cartridges containing e-liquid made up of nicotine salts. Sounds pretty futuristic – almost scarily so, right?

Nicotine salt is, in fact, the natural state that nicotine takes in tobacco leaves – however, smoking it in this form isn’t the most effective way to absorb it into your body. In the 1960’s, Phillip Morris de-protonated nicotine, making it more bio-available to our lungs. In short, you could get a better hit. Other big tobacco companies soon followed suit.

However, nicotine salts have made a comeback thanks to PAX labs (who conceived Juul – Juul labs became an independent company in 2007). Using Benzoic acid, PAX labs found a way to make nicotine salt vaporize at lower temperatures, as well as being more palatable. A notable consequence of this is that e-liquids can be made much stronger when nicotine salts are utilized.

Side Effects of Juul

Let us not forget that (as of 2018) Juuls have only been on the market for three years. The tobacco companies have such limited advertising rights in the UK is that we know the effect which cigarette smoking has on public health – but this took decades to prove!

The side effects of Juul are very similar to those of e-cigarettes in general. These can include increased adrenaline levels in the heart, potentially leading to heart rhythms issues, heart attacks, and even death in the longer term. Furthermore, it is unlikely that you will know exactly whether you are allergic to smoking any kind of e-cigarettes; chemicals within e-liquid or Juul pods can bring on allergic reactions.

Controversy Surrounding Juul

Juul has shaken up the e-cigarette market in more ways than one. Although they are explicitly aimed at adult smokers, e-cigarettes have found a disturbing new audience – high school students. Easily concealable and indistinguishable from USB flash drives, it makes it difficult for teachers to identify a Juul.

This has led to a recent clampdown by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a press statement, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has stated that we now face “an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers.” Instead of the harm reduction associated with weaning adult smokers off of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes have become popular among high-schoolers who are too young to smoke in the first place. Juul was among the five companies singled out by FDA.

As the New York Times suggests, the importance of social media as part of their marketing strategy has meant Juul has potentially attracted ‘customers for life.’ Interestingly it is also is popular among college kids who are legally able to smoke. One college student from California who first tried Juuling in 2016 writes that “At its core, the Juul represents our tech-savvy ingenuity when it comes to making bad decisions.”

Can Juul Help You Quit Smoking?

Assuming you are an adult smoker who is trying to quit, Juuling can potentially help. But maybe that isn’t the best way to phrase the question – as I’ve written in this ultimate guide to quitting, so can stroking your cat.

So how likely is it that Juuling will help you quit smoking? Is it a good option?

Let’s start by reiterating that Juuling and vaping, in general, is still very new to us. Whilst many people hail it as an effective weapon in the cessation armoury, we haven’t had much time to back this up with science. Well done if you clicked the link I included in the Juul vs vaping vs cigarettes section – that particular paper suggested that vaping isn’t an effective way to quit.

It’s likely that Juuling will help you stop smoking traditional cigarettes – which is fine if you’re quitting because you don’t like the smell. However, if you’re quitting because of the damaging health consequences, we can’t recommend any type of e-cigarette smoking as it can be just as addictive. The fact that you can smoke anywhere and increase the strength of e-liquid suggests that you’re unlikely to cut down simply by switching to vaping.

The debate rages on though. On the other hand, if you control and reduce the strength of the e-liquid you use (thus reducing the nicotine levels) in conjunction with other methods, e-cigarettes could help you achieve total smoking cessation and overcome your addiction.

Quitting smoking is a personal journey which is different for everyone. However, there are certain strategies which have been scientifically proven to help you quit. Some of which are Quite Genius – like Quit Genius. Does that count as a pun? Maybe? Anyway…

Take home message

If you want a healthy and effective solution, there are other ways to quit than Juuling or using e-cigarettes. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is an important part of this, it doesn’t necessitate vaping. Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and nasal spray can all help you overcome cravings by boosting the nicotine levels in your body. They have none of the associated risks which come with smoking e-cigarettes.

NRT is a way of dealing with physical cravings and most effective as a supplement to CBT – or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT aims to treat the psychological side of smoking addiction, helping you confront questions about the triggers which make you crave a cigarette and how you can avoid stress-smoking. It’s a method which focuses on routine-breaking and habit-building – rather than simply getting your fix some other way.

Overcoming the need to smoke can feel like a David-vs-Goliath type battle – so the more help you can get, the better. The CBT offered by Quit Genius comes on a smartphone and it is scientifically proven to give smokers the help they need.

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