JUUL Electronic Cigarettes: Nicotine Exposure and the User Experience

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: While JUUL e-cigarettes are similar to market competitors, they seem to have unique characteristics that make them more satisfying to tobacco smokers. In this qualitative study, participants said that social networks are an important influencer in learning about and using JUUL, whose size and lack of smell were also appreciated. Participants also noted JUUL's nicotine delivery is effective enough to eliminate their cravings for tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional smoking and recent research shows they can help smokers quit. JUUL is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes with up to a 70 percent market share. Despite concerns about JUUL's appeal to teenagers, little independent data is available on the user experience of the product.

There are concerns about creating a new population of dependent nicotine users, particularly among youth non-smokers. However, e-cigarettes also have the potential to deliver satisfactory nicotine levels to assist tobacco cigarette smokers in switching from cigarettes. Nicotine exposure is of specific interest, as it can inform both the product’s addictive potential and potential for therapeutic benefit.

The aims of this study were to assess in adult JUUL users: (1) daily nicotine exposure, (2) level of nicotine dependence, and (3) qualitative analysis of reasons for uptake of the JUUL product, current reasons for use and patterns of use.

In a study of 15 current JUUL users, the majority of participants were introduced to JUUL via a friend or family member (93%). The majority of participants (67%) continued to purchase their pods at a brick and mortar store. Approximately half of the sample (53%) had previously used a different electronic cigarette before using JUUL All participants had tried other pod flavors, and 67% were actively rotating between flavors.

Nearly all participants said they used JUUL to quit, cut down on, or reduce risk of tobacco cigarettes. Most said they would like to quit using JUUL in the future. Nicotine levels among users were similar to if not slightly lower than tobacco cigarette smokers previously reported. Dependence scores were mostly low to moderate dependence. This is consistent with previous work showing that electronic cigarette users report less severe dependence than tobacco cigarette smokers.

Peer groups were an important influencing factor in introduction to and use of JUUL. Many participants noted first trying their friends’ JUULs before deciding to purchase for themselves. Participants described several device features of the JUUL as what attracted them to the product. Most commonly mentioned were features such as small size, small vapor cloud and a style mimicking other electronics. They also described the convenience of being able to take a hit without pressing a button and being able to vape indoors without a distinct smell.

Several participants noted the nicotine effects from the JUUL were similar to that of a tobacco cigarette. The JUUL was able to satisfy their need for nicotine while concurrently adding the sensory flavor benefit and not including the noxious aspect of cigarette smell. 

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