Scientists are starting to learn how e-cigs like the Juul can impact your health - and the results are troubling
- A handful of recent studies are beginning to reveal the health effects of e-cigarette use, and they are not all positive.
- Some evidence has suggested that e-cigs may help adults quit smoking conventional cigarettes, but other studies have found that they might encourage teens to start.
- Regulators and health experts are particularly concerned about a device called the Juul, which packs the same nicotine content per pod as a pack of cigarettes.
- Despite capturing more than 70% of the e-cig market and being recently valued at $15 billion, Juul faces a growing backlash from the FDA and scientists who say the company intentionally marketed to teens.
- In studies of e-cigarettes that don't include Juul, researchers have found evidence of toxic metals like lead in e-cig vapor. Evidence also suggests that vaping may be linked with an increased risk of heart attacks.
Smoking kills. No other habit has been so strongly tied to death.
Very few studies look at how vaping affects the body and brain, however. Even fewer specifically examine the Juul, a popular device that packs as much nicotine in each of its pods as a standard pack of cigarettes.But a handful of studies published in the last few months have begun to illuminate some of the potential health effects tied to vaping. They are troubling. Most recently, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed young people who vape and found that those who said they used Juuls vaped more frequently than those who used other brands. The participants appeared to be insufficiently aware of how addictive the devices could be.
Most e-cigs contain toxic metals, and smoking them may also increase the risk of a heart attack
In addition to these findings, of course, is a well-established body of evidence about the harms of nicotine. The highly addictive substance that can have dramatic impacts on the developing brains of young adults.
Brain-imaging studies of adolescents who begin smoking traditional cigarettes (not e-cigs) at a young age suggest that those individuals have markedly reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex and perform less well on tasks related to memory and attention, compared to people who don't smoke. Those consequences are believed to be a result of the nicotine in the cigarettes rather than other ingredients.Nicholas Chadi, a clinical pediatrics fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, spoke about the Juul at the American Society of Addiction Medicine's annual conference this spring. He said these observed brain changes are also linked with increased sensitivity to other drugs as well as greater impulsivity. He described some anecdotal effects of nicotine vaping that he's seen among teens in and around his hospital.
"After only a few months of using nicotine [these teens] describe cravings, sometimes intense ones. Sometimes they also lose their hopes of being able to quit. And interestingly, they show less severe symptoms of withdrawal than adults, but they start to show them earlier on. After only a few hundred cigarettes - or whatever the equivalent amount of vaping pods - some start showing irritability or shakiness when they stop," Chadi said.
A new survey suggests that teens who use Juul e-cigs aren't aware of these risks
So for a study published this week, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed young people who vape and asked them whether they used the Juul or another e-cigarette.Their results can be found in a widely accessible version of the Journal of the American Medical Association called JAMA Open. Based on a sample of 445 high-school students whose average age was 19, the researchers observed that teens who used the Juul tended to say they vaped more frequently than those who used other devices. Juul users also appeared to be less aware of how addictive the devices could be compared with teens who vaped other e-cigs.
"I was surprised and concerned that so many youths were using Juul more frequently than other products," Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics and a lead author of the study, said in a statement."We need to help them understand the risks of addiction," she added. "This is not a combustible cigarette, but it still contains an enormous amount of nicotine - at least as much as a pack of cigarettes."
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