Is nicotine actually bad for you?

The case against Juul is also partly a case against nicotine.

By June 2018, a New York teenager’s addiction to Juul had become so intense that his parents took the door off his room, switched him to a different school, and asked that he be followed to the bathroom — all in an effort to prevent him from juuling. “He couldn’t stop, and so as a result, he’s not really having a normal teenage life at the moment,” says Jason Solotaroff, an attorney at Giskan, Solotaroff, and Anderson LLP who is representing the family.

The complaint, filed by the teenager’s mother, is just one of a trio of lawsuits unearthed by Wired reporter Nitasha Tiku. There’s also a class action suit with 10 named plaintiffs from across the country — some as young as 14 years old. “It’s accusing the company of making misleading representations about the nicotine exposure the product creates and the related risks of abuse and addiction that arise from those,” says Esfand Nafisi, an attorney at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP who is representing the plaintiffs in all three suits.

In an emailed statement, Juul took exception to the idea it marketed to teens but did not address the claims that it caused addiction. “Juul Labs does not believe the cases have merit and will be defending them vigorously,” company spokesperson Victoria Davis told The Verge. “We cannot be more emphatic on this point: no minor or non-nicotine user should ever try Juul. Our packaging includes a prominent nicotine label and clearly states that the product is for adult smokers.”

That’s why the Food and Drug Administration has approved nicotine replacement therapies like gum, lozenges, and patches. To be clear though, that list doesn’t include vapes, which are still largely unregulated and haven’t yet been convincingly shown to help people quit, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The science around nicotine and heart problems is a little murkier. About 40 percent of the deaths related to smoking are from cardiovascular disease, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. Though nicotine can make your heart race and temporarily boost blood pressure, it’s the non-nicotine components of tobacco smoke that are thought to damage and harden blood vessels, says Holly Middlekauff, a cardiologist at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “Nicotine itself hasn’t been largely studied compared to nothing,” she says. “We better be darned sure that it’s not the nicotine that’s triggering heart attacks — and that I don’t know.”

Her lab is trying to find out by analyzing the electrical activity of people’s hearts after they puff on an e-cigarette with nicotine, an e-cigarette without nicotine, or an empty vape. The researchers were looking for a pattern of heart rate variability that’s been linked with cardiovascular events like heart attacks and sudden death. And they saw that pattern emerge only when the study participants vaped the e-cigarettes with nicotine, according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2017. The study was small — just 33 people. And it was looking at a marker of heart problems, not at the heart problems themselves. So we still need big, long-term studies that compare the frequency of heart attacks among vapers to smokers and non-smokers.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s