What Is Juul and Is It Better for You Than Smoking?

The FDA temporarily suspended its ban on the sale of Juul products in the U.S., but is Juul bad for you?

Photo: Shutterstock/Diego Cervo.

After denying popular e-cigarette brand Juul authorization to sell its products in the U.S. last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has temporarily suspended the marketing order denial, allowing Juul to continue selling its products (for now) while the company appeals the agency's decision.

In a tweet shared on July 5, 2022, the FDA announced an administrative stay (aka suspension) of the marketing denial order. "The agency has determined that there are scientific issues unique to the Juul application that warrant additional review," tweeted FDA Tobacco. Although the stay "temporarily suspends" the marketing denial order while a review takes place, it "does not rescind it," added the agency in the Twitter thread. All electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), including Juul's products, must have FDA authorization to be legally marketed, and right now, Juul still doesn't have that authorization, explains a final tweet in the thread.

This comes after the June 23, 2022 marketing order denial from the FDA, a decision requiring Juul (and stores that carry the brand'sproducts) to stop selling Juul vapes and four types of Juul'sflavor pods. However, even if Juul loses its appeal and the marketing order denial goes back into place, the FDA can't restrict individual possession of Juul products, according to a press release. So if you already have one, the FDA can't confiscate it.

"Today's action is further progress on the FDA's commitment to ensuring that all e-cigarette and electronic nicotine delivery system products currently being marketed to consumers meet our public health standards," said FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., in a statement on June 23. "The agency has dedicated significant resources to review products from the companies that account for most of the U.S. market. We recognize these make up a significant part of the available products and many have played a disproportionate role in the rise in youth vaping," he added. (

The decision followed the FDA review of Juul'spremarket tobacco product applications (brand's must provide scientific data proving a product is appropriate for public health in order to get FDA approval to market tobacco products). The FDA found the applications "raised concerns due to insufficient and conflicting data," specifically regarding "potentially harmful chemicals leaching from the company's proprietary e-liquid pods," according to the press release. While the FDA noted that it doesn't have "clinical information" that suggests using Juul vapes or pods is associated with "an immediate hazard," there's not enough evidence to assess the potential risks at this time.

ICYMI, over the last few years, e-cigarettes have grown in popularity — and so has their reputation for being a "better for you" option than actual cigarettes. Part of that is due to the fact that hardcore smokers do use them to cut down on their habit, and the other part of that is due to good marketing. After all, with e-cigs, you can vape anywhere without lighting up or reeking of nicotine afterward. But e-cigarettes, and especially Juul products, are likely responsible for more people getting hooked on nicotine. Despite the FDA's recent ruling, if you're still wondering if Juul is bad for you, keep scrolling to learn more. (

What Is Juul?

Juul is an e-cigarette that came on the market in 2015, and the product itself is pretty similar to other e-cigarettes or vapes, says Jonathan Philip Winickoff, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in family health and smoking cessation at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It has the same ingredients: a liquid filled with nicotine, solvents, and flavorings."

But the USB shape of the device is what makes it so popular with teens and adolescents, who made up the majority of Juul's consumers, says Dr. Winickoff. The design makes it easy to conceal, and it literally plugs right into your computer to heat up and charge. There have been reports of kids using them behind teachers' backs, and some schools have even banned USBs entirely to get Juul out of the classrooms. And yet, in 2020, Juul was responsible for 42 percent of all e-cigarette retail market sales in the U.S., according to Statista.

The other reason Juul appeals to a younger crowd: It used to come in flavors like Crème Brulee, mango, and cool cucumber. Not exactly the tastes a hardened tobacco smoker might be seeking, right? In fact, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer actually condemned Juul in a 2017 letter to the Food and Drug Administration for promoting "flavors that are attractive to young people." In September 2018, the FDA demanded that Juul and other top e-cigarette companies develop plans for curbing teen use. In response, Juul announced that it would only offer mint, tobacco, and menthol flavors in stores.

Juul isn't exactly cost-prohibitive; a "starter kit," including the e-cigarette, USB charger, and four flavor pods, sells for about $50, while individual pods ring up at around $15.99. But those add up: The average Juul smoker spends $180 per month on Juul pods, according to a survey by LendEDU, a financial education company. That's less than the amount of money survey respondents had formerly been spending on traditional nicotine products like cigarettes (an average of $258/month)—but the habit still isn't cheap. It's clear the product won't do your bank account any favors, but is Juul bad for you and your health?

Is Juul Bad for You?

It's hard to outdo the cigarette in terms of health risks, and yes, there are fewer toxic compounds found in Juul than in cigarettes, says Dr. Winickoff. But it's still made with some very bad-for-you ingredients. "It's not just harmless water vapor and flavor," says Dr. Winickoff. "Not only is it made with N-Nitrosonornicotine, a dangerous Group I carcinogen (and the most carcinogenic substance we know of), you're also inhaling Acrylonitrile, which is a highly poisonous compound used in plastics and adhesives and synthetic rubbers."

The nicotine in Juul is also specially engineered—with a proton group that attaches to it—to taste mild and be inhaled easily (likely another reason for its popularity with teens). And how much nicotine is in a Juul will blow your mind. "You can inhale a whole package worth of nicotine without even thinking twice," says Dr. Winickoff. (

That makes Juul incredibly addictive, so it's not the kind of thing you want to dabble in or experiment with—Dr. Winickoff says that, with the amount of nicotine in each pod, you could easily get hooked within a week. "In fact, the younger you are, the more quickly you get addicted," he adds. "It changes your brain to be nicotine-hungry by upping the regulation of receptors in the reward center of the brain, and there's some good evidence that nicotine addiction itself potentiates, or increases, addiction to other substances." This means it'll be even harder to quit, one of the most explicit Juul side effects.

Juul Side Effects

The e-cigarette brand was only on the market for eight years, so doctors and researchers don't really know the full scope of Juul side effects and what health risks to which the product might lead. However some recent studies on e-cigarettes offer some suggestions. For instance, a 2021 study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology found vaping aerosols contain thousands of unknown chemicals, which could be potentially dangerous to people who vape. But there's still more research to be done. (

That said, there are known side effects of nicotine inhalation. "It can cause coughing and wheezing, as well as asthma attacks," says Dr. Winickoff. "And it can cause a kind of allergic pneumonia called acute eosinophilic pneumonitis." Not to mention, puffing just one e-cigarette has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology (researchers found it to increase adrenaline levels in the heart, which could lead to heart rhythms issues, heart attacks, and even death).

In 2018, an 18-year-old who had been vaping for about three weeks made the news when she ended up in the hospital for respiratory failure. Doctors diagnosed her with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or "wet lung," which is when the lungs get inflamed due to an allergic reaction to dust or chemicals (in this case, the e-cigarette ingredients). "The whole case is pretty telling that the compounds in the chemicals and in electronic cigarettes are not safe," says Dr. Winickoff.

One other major issue? You might think you're vaping Juul, but because there's so little regulation around e-cigarettes, you might not actually know what you're inhaling. "There are a huge number of knock-offs out there, and with kids trading pods all the time, you don't really know the source of your product," says Dr. Winickoff. "It's almost like you're playing Russian Roulette with your brain."

At the end of the day, there's no clear-cut answer to "is Juul bad for you?" Some tobacco control experts believe e-cigarette companies, such as Juul, can help provide healthier alternatives to smokers. But that doesn't mean they're safe. "I wouldn't recommend anyone who hasn't smoked before to ever try Juul," says Dr. Winickoff. "Stick to breathing good, clean air."

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