Sleek, small and easy to conceal, pod-based e-cigarettes such as JUUL have become hugely popular with teenagers and young adults since they came on the market in 2015. They’ve also been marketed as less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes, leading many young people to believe using them is not harmful to health.
However, a newly published review led by researchers from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that while e-cigarettes may contain lower levels of harmful ingredients than conventional cigarettes, there is no evidence that even these lower levels are safe for youth. The study also found that the devices’ highly efficient delivery of nicotine leads to greater dependence than other types of e-cigarettes.
After analyzing 35 separate studies involving pod-based e-cigarettes, the Harvard scientists said their findings show they have a higher potential to get young people addicted than other devices. “To prevent this from happening, we need stronger health communication messages that alert people to these findings,” said first author Stella Lee.
According to the analysis, the design of pod-based e-cigarettes ensures the delivery of high doses of nicotine in a low pH form – which is less harsh compared to the higher pH nicotine found in most other e-cigarette brands, thus encouraging deeper inhalation. In one study they looked at, for example, the level of nicotine exposure in adolescents using JUUL or other brands of pod-based e-cigarettes was higher (245 ng/ml) than levels detected in adolescents who smoked regular cigarettes (155 ng/ml).
Other study findings also suggested that adolescents using pod-based e-cigarettes were more likely than other e-cigarette users to vape daily and to have more symptoms of nicotine dependence.