One Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, making the addiction ever harder to break.
Photo: Fabio Pagani / EyeEm / Getty Images
Victoria's Secret model Bella Hadid's latest health goal isn't to be more mindful or to try a new diet—it's to quit Juul. The model started Juuling after she quit smoking in 2017, and now she wants to ditch the e-cig life as well. (Confused? First read: What Is Juul and Is It Bad for You?)
E-cigarette companies like Juul stop short of outright claiming their products are better for you than actual cigarettes, but they do market them as a stopgap for cigarette smokers who are looking to quit. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that e-cigs might be beneficial for some people. But does that make it okay to use them, or easier to quit? Not so much.
How Addictive Is Juul Anyway?
Long-time smokers may turn to Juul to wean themselves off cigarettes because it eliminates the negative effects of burning paper and additives (like tar and carbon monoxide) on the lungs, says Indra Cidambi, M.D., medical director of the Center for Network Therapy and vice president of the New Jersey Society of Addiction Medicine. "However, higher concentrations of nicotine remain a health risk, and vaping pods may also contain additives like flavors, the health of which are largely unknown." (FYI: Part of Juul's initial popularity came from its enticing flavors like crème brûlée, mango, and cool cucumber. However, Juul was recently ordered by the FDA to curb teen use and responded by suspending sales of ~fun~ flavors in retail stores, and instead only offer them online.)
Let's talk about those higher concentrations of nicotine, though—this might actually make Juul even more addictive than regular cigarettes. "Juul contains nearly 59 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid, while a regular cigarette has about 12 milligrams of nicotine," explains Dr. Cidambi. "So Juul is at least four times as potent as cigarettes."
Here's another way to look at it: "One Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes—and double the amount that's in other e-cigarettes," says Patricia Folan, D.N.P., director of the Northwell Health Center for Tobacco Control. (Not to mention, a recent study says e-cigarettes may increase your risk of cancer.)
Quitting Juul vs. Quitting Cigarettes
The high nicotine content could make Juul even tougher to quit than traditional cigarettes. And for what it's worth, a recent study published in PLOS One found that vaping actually doesn't help people quit smoking. (See: Are E-Cigarettes Actually Healthier for You?)
With cigarettes, you smoke one and discard it—and that's if you can find a place where smoking isn't banned. "But Juul can be used discreetly, so it's often used frequently," says Folan. "This type of use contributes to the consumption of higher levels of nicotine." So while cigarette smokers are getting an intermittent fix of nicotine, Juul users are likely inhaling a constant stream all day.
Dosing yourself with all that extra nicotine can also make quitting even more unpleasant, says Melynda Barnes, M.D., associate clinical director for Ro, a telemedicine startup that develops smoking cessation programs. You can expect the same effects of nicotine withdrawal as with quitting cigarettes: coughing, nausea, sweating, depression, weight gain, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia. "But because of the constant use and the higher levels of nicotine, people who are trying to quit report more intense withdrawal symptoms," she adds.
How to Quit Juul
Unfortunately, there's no easy answer as to how to quit. "Right now, there isn't a standard protocol on how to quit e-cigarettes, especially since they're being marketed as a smoking cessation tool," says Dr. Barnes.
While there aren't public health service guidelines to assist people in quitting e-cigarettes, there are FDA-approved medications to assist with nicotine dependence, says Folan. "People who are addicted to e-cigarettes and want to quit should talk to their health-care provider to get help with selecting the best-approved cessation product," she adds. (You can also use this tool on smokefree.gov to see how strong your nicotine addiction might be—then see some ideas on how to reduce cravings.)
And, just like with quitting cigarettes, "gradually reducing the amount of nicotine you consume or stopping cold turkey are options," says Dr. Cidambi. Good news: Juul is developing lower-nicotine pods that may help you reduce the amount of nicotine as you scale back.
Of course, you already know the best way to avoid all this: Don't start smoking Juul in the first place.