Saturday, February 16, 2019

Go Away, Juul

I dislike ads in general, and in fact I don't usually read them.  But these days you can't miss the full-page newspaper spreads from Juul, showing a big photo of some obviously adult person, praising Juul for freeing them from that awful tobacco smoke while still supporting their nicotine addiction.

Wait, what?  That's right. The people in the Juul commercials are publicly bragging about how easy it is now to support their addiction.  I don't think I've ever seen that advertised before.  On one level, if you are hooked on nicotine, it's probably better to vape than to smoke cigarettes.  I've heard no suggestion that vaping nicotine will kill you, although some people now worry about small children opening and drinking the little plastic capsules containing vape liquid.  But we know that smoking cigarettes has a very good chance of killing you.  Lung cancer has killed two of my cousins and a brother-in-law.  So far.

I've seen a number of articles and blog posts suggesting that vaping is much better for you than cigarettes - and every one of them so far has traced back to organizations that sell e-cigarettes.  This makes me suspicious.

Make no mistake, nicotine is addictive - smoking tobacco would probably not be addictive if the nicotine could somehow be removed.  (But then, why would you do it?  Cigarettes stink.)  A 1988 Surgeon General's report declared nicotine to be as addictive as cocaine or heroin.  The article Nicotine Addiction 101, from, has a pretty good description of how and why nicotine (and other drugs) causes addiction, and why it's so hard to quit.  There's good evidence that early Juul advertising, emphasizing sweet, fruity flavors, has addicted a lot of teenagers who shouldn't be using the stuff at all, as their brains are still developing.  That's why all the people in the ads now are adults, and Juul no longer brags about how nice its vapors taste.  They were forced to change their ads.

Nicotine is a poison.  It's been used as a pesticide for centuries.  A large enough dose of the stuff (30 - 60 mg) will kill you, according to the National Institutes of Health, although other articles indicate the dose varies.  And nicotine addicts, of course, require a much larger dose to kill them.  I'm a detective story fan, and I can recall at least one old novel where the victim is murdered by nicotine (obtained from an agricultural poison) in his drink.

So it's a good thing that both cigarettes and e-cigarettes give you a very small dose of nicotine.  Vape liquid contains somewhere between 3 and 24 mg/ml (that's milligrams per milliliter for the non-metric), and the amount you get when inhaling is a tiny fraction of that. So I'll agree that, on that level, vaping is probably less destructive than smoking, although you get more nicotine from vaping Juul than from smoking a cigarette.  One original Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, so someone who inhales one pod a day is getting equivalent nicotine to a pack of cigarettes a day.  Juul recently said they're putting out lower nicotine options. 

Wouldn't it be better not to be addicted at all??