JUUL electronic cigarette products are the most popular vaping devices on the market — and they’re especially popular with teens and young adults.

There’s a common belief that vaping isn’t that bad. Many people believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, so what’s the big deal?

Unfortunately, that’s a misperception. While more research still needs to be done on vaping, the research that has been done so far points to potentially harmful side effects.

This article will take a closer look at the ingredients found in JUUL pods, including the flavored ones, and compare nicotine content with that of cigarettes.

You may be wondering, what exactly is in that liquid inside a JUUL pod? The manufacturer lists the following ingredients:

  • nicotine
  • propylene glycol and glycerine
  • benzoic acid
  • flavor

These are fairly standard ingredients for e-cigarette liquid. Let’s look at these ingredients a little more closely to understand what they do:

  • Nicotine is a chemical compound and an addictive stimulant that speeds up your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Propylene glycol is a liquid additive that helps preserve moisture and flavor. E-cigarette manufacturers add it to the juice to help produce vapor when heated.
  • Glycerine also helps produce the vapor. It’s a thickener, so it helps produce thicker clouds. But it’s usually mixed with propylene glycol to achieve a balance.
  • Benzoic acid is a food additive often used as a preservative.

You also have to watch out for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the psychoactive mind-altering compound in marijuana that produces a “high” sensation.

Although JUUL does not sell pods that contain THC, other companies sell marijuana pods that can fit a JUUL device. Also, there are ways to hack a JUUL pod to add THC oils.

If you’re offered a vaping pod, you may not know whether it has been altered with THC oils.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaping pods that contain THC — particularly from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online dealers — have been linked to more than 2,800 cases of lung injury. Some of these cases have been fatal.

Vitamin E acetate is sometimes used as an additive in e-cigarettes, most commonly in those containing THC. This additive is strongly linked with the outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). The CDC recommends against the use of any e-cigarette products that contain vitamin E acetate.

Flavored pods are just what they sound like: pods containing the juice with the ingredients outlined above, but with additional flavors added to make them more appealing to users.

JUUL Labs used to sell flavored products like mango, fruit medley, and crème brûlée. But the manufacturer stopped selling these flavors in late 2019 after the Trump administration announced it was considering a ban on flavored vape products.

Many experts were concerned that the appeal of flavors was driving their popularity, and surveys showed that teens liked the flavors.

The American Cancer Society cautions that some flavors may contain a chemical called diacetyl that has been linked to lung damage.

Currently, JUUL Labs sells the following three flavors:

  • Virginia Tobacco
  • Classic Tobacco
  • Menthol

Everyone understands that regular cigarettes contain nicotine. The nicotine concentration can vary, but a typical cigarette contains about 10 to 12 milligrams (mg) of nicotine. You may wind up inhaling around 1.1 to 1.8 mg of nicotine per cigarette.

But you may be getting more nicotine in a JUUL pod than you realize. The American Cancer Society warns that you’re getting more nicotine per puff with a JUUL pod than with many other kinds of e-cigarettes.

Until JUUL came along, the standard nicotine strength in a vaping device ranged from around 1 to 2.4 percent.

By comparison, JUUL pods are available in two different nicotine strengths: 5 percent and 3 percent.

According to the manufacturer, 5 percent of the 0.7 milliliters (mL) in the pod equals about 40 mg of nicotine per pod. And 3 percent equals 23 mg per pod. One pod is roughly equivalent to about 20 cigarettes.

Research on the toxicity of inhaling the nicotine-infused aerosol produced by an e-cigarette is still fairly sparse compared to research on the dangers of cigarette smoking. But we do know a few things:

  • Most e-cigs, including JUUL pods, contain nicotine, which is both addictive and toxic.
  • Non-smokers were more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes after getting hooked on vaping, according to a 2017 study.
  • E-cigarette users often experience side effects like throat and mouth irritation, as well as nausea.
  • Vaping puts you at risk for a serious condition called e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). In fact, the CDC has tallied more than 2,800 people hospitalized with EVALI after using e-cigarettes.
  • Vitamin E acetate is sometimes used as an additive in e-cigarettes, usually the ones containing THC. Research suggests that inhaling it can affect your lung function.
  • It can be dangerous to use both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes at the same time.
  • Vaping may pose some danger to your heart health, although more research is needed.
  • E-cigarettes and their vapor can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. They can also potentially harm your liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

Some people say that vaping helps them quit smoking cigarettes. But there’s limited evidence that vaping is effective for helping people quit. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend or approve the use of e-cigarettes as a quit smoking aid.

You may want to follow the advice of tobacco cessation experts who recommend other strategies and quitting aids.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Your doctor may suggest nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT products help you wean yourself off nicotine. These products contain controlled amounts of nicotine, and you gradually decrease the amount you use over time. This helps to minimize the likelihood of unpleasant withdrawal effects.

Some over-the-counter NRT options include:

  • Skin patches. Applied to clean dry skin, transdermal nicotine patches slowly release a controlled dose of nicotine through your skin.
  • Lozenges. Similar to hard candy, the lozenges slowly dissolve in your mouth, releasing nicotine.
  • Chewing gum. As you chew, NRT gum releases nicotine, which is absorbed by the tissue inside your mouth.

Nicotine-free aids

Not everyone is a good candidate for a tobacco cessation treatment that uses nicotine. If you would prefer to avoid cessation aids that contain nicotine, there are medications your doctor can prescribe to help you quit.

Nicotine-free prescription medications include:

  • Chantix (varenicline tartrate)
  • Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride)

These prescription drugs work by altering the chemicals in your brain to help ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

However, like most medications, they can have side effects. Talk to your doctor about whether these products are appropriate for you.

JUUL pods include a variety of different ingredients, including nicotine. It’s estimated that the nicotine content in one JUUL pod is equivalent to about 20 cigarettes.

JUUL pods also include other ingredients such as propylene glycol, glycerine, and benzoic acid. Although JUUL doesn’t sell pods that contain THC, there are ways to hack a pod to add THC oils.

More research is needed to fully understand the potential impact that JUUL pods and other vaping products have on our health. But for now, most experts urge caution when using vaping products.