She tried gums, patches and various e-cigarettes to quit smoking. What finally worked for Chantel Williams was a small, reusable e-cigarette called Juul that packs a big nicotine punch.
“I look better. I feel better and I don’t smell. It’s fantastic,” said Williams of Portland, Oregon, who smoked for decades.
That nicotine hit and its easy-to-inhale vapor is one reason why Juul is so popular — and so feared.
“That’s the trouble with Juul: It’s probably the worst for kids but it might be the best for adult smokers,” said Dr. Nancy Rigotti, a tobacco treatment specialist at Harvard Medical School.
The brainchild of two Stanford University design students, Juul launched in 2015 and quickly leapfrogged over its competitors to become the top-selling e-cigarette in the U.S. Today, the privately held company controls nearly three-quarters of the $3.7 billion-dollar retail market for e-cigarettes, spawning dozens of copycat brands along the way.
With Juul’s rise came an explosion of underage vaping, alarming public health officials and lawmakers. Last year, 1 in 5 U.S. high school students reported vaping in the previous month, according to a government survey.
Juul and other pod-based vaping devices can be used discreetly, without the smoke, odor or throat irritation that deterred some teenagers from smoking. E-cigarettes typically heat a solution containing nicotine into a vapor, and health experts say the addictive chemical is harmful to developing brains. Recent research published shows some teenagers aren’t even aware they are inhaling nicotine when using Juul and similar e-cigarettes.
Proposals to keep e-cigarettes away from teenagers include banning flavored solutions, restricting where they can be sold and raising the purchase age to 21, which some states have done.
Less attention has been paid to Juul’s quick, powerful buzz.
Abbey Solomon first began seeing Juul around the house when her son Jack was in 8th grade.
Like many parents, she didn’t initially recognize the small, rechargeable device, which resembles a flash drive, as an e-cigarette. But as parents and teachers began sounding the alarm, she started confiscating Juul and its color-coded flavor pods from her son and his friends.
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