How Cool is the Juul?
By Bill Kuttler, DDS
August 29, 2019
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Before I actually begin this article, I wish to offer a disclaimer. This article is about e-cigarettes, NOT mass transit. So the similarity between the “Juul” and the “Jule”, Dubuque’s wonderful mass transit system is totally a coincidence.  Now onto the real subject….

E-cigarettes are gaining a huge amount of attention in the last few years and more recently in the media. The claims, both good and bad, are extensive, while the actual research is very limited. That limitation isn’t due to lack of interest – it’s due to the lack of time that vaping has existed.  Vaping is essentially defined as a process that allows people to inhale an aerosol that contains nicotine as well as other chemicals, etc.  While there are about 100 brands of vaping products, the Juul product had a market share of over 70% about one year ago, hence my focus on that brand.

Due to the hype about vaping and the amount of press on it, here’s my attempt to take a balanced look at the topic and help people make informed decisions about it.

First, there are VERY few studies relating vaping to oral health. There is some limited research that has shown that the “sweet” flavors used in some e-cigarettes do cause a significant increase in biofilm formation. Since an increase in biofilm amounts has been shown to be related to an increase in dental disease (cavities and gum disease), that leads me to suspect that using flavored e-cigarettes isn’t good for oral health, but that connection has not yet been proven.

The claims made by the manufacturers of e-cigarettes is that they are targeting people currently smoking, and that vaping is less damaging than smoking conventional cigarettes. While the research on whether or not vaping is less damaging then smoking regular cigarettes is not conclusive, there is some evidence that supports that claim. That is particularly true if the smoker totally converts to using e-cigarettes and no longer continues to smoke anything else.  This appears to be relatively unusual. Nevertheless, that may be a little like saying that shooting yourself in the arm is less of a problem than in the chest – clearly neither are good for you!

The biggest problem that exists is the industry claim that they target adults who are currently smoking appears to be totally false. (Or, at the very least, their target marketing has been horribly ineffective.) A study done in October, 2018 showed 9.5% of 15-17 year olds and 11% of 18-21 year olds were using Juul products. There was also research that revealed 15-17 year olds are 16 times more likely than 25-34 year olds to be using Juul products. They (as well as other vaping products) seem to be attracting an increased number of teens when previously the number of teens using tobacco products had been on the decline.

There is a strong suspicion that the sweet flavorings used in many of the Juul products and the ease of concealment of it (it looks like a USB flash drive) appeals to that younger market, i.e., it’s easily used in schools, etc. without detection.

There are several concerns about the use of these products being used by a large segment of teenagers:

  • Nicotine IS addictive, so when teens start using it, they are likely to continue.
  • It has been shown that nicotine can harm brain development, and a healthy brain continues to develop until the age of 25.
  • It isn’t just nicotine that is being delivered – there are a variety of items in the aerosol that are problematic.  There are heavy metals as well as cancer causing chemicals in some of these products – certainly none of those are “healthy”.

The one thing everyone seems to agree with is the growing impact of these products. Based on all the studies I examined, the best conclusion I can reach is do not start any type of smoking or other tobacco use  – regular smoking, chewing, etc. or vaping. There is nothing to suggest it is good for anyone, and at best it might be marginally less bad than conventional cigarette use.

Please remember, in Dubuque, the Jule is cool, but NOT the Juul…!

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