JUUL, an e-cigarette brand, was introduced to the U.S. market in 2015, and it quickly became the most widely recognized brand. The term “Juuling” came into the mainstream with increased use among young people. By 2019, JUUL brand products made up 70 percent of the e-cigarette market.

While electronic cigarettes are generally believed to be safer than traditional cigarettes, JUUL and other similar products contain nicotine and other chemicals that still pose health risks. Each JUUL pod contains 5 percent nicotine, which is nearly equal to a pack of cigarettes.

JUUL and similar products are especially harmful to adolescents and pregnant women.

Scientists are studying the effect of exposure to inhaled nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes on the body. There’s still a lot we don’t know about JUUL and cancer risk.

Let’s take a closer look at what we know about JUUL and other e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes may increase the risk of developing cancer.

Studies show that e-cigarette products cause changes in the lungs of humans and animals. This includes inflammation of the airways and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), which are risk factors for cancer.

Aerosols from electronic cigarettes can cause lung, mouth, and throat irritation. E-cigarettes increase the risk of developing nicotine dependence, and new research points to heart-related risks with regular e-cigarette use.

The different elements released when electronic cigarettes are heated together with the effects of higher nicotine contained in JUUL pods may be harmful.

JUUL contains several ingredients:

  • propylene glycol and glycerin
  • benzoic acid
  • flavors (tobacco, menthol)
  • nicotine

Based on previous research, we know that nicotine exposure over time increases your risk of lung cancer. JUUL and other e-cigarettes also contain other substances that may cause negative changes to tissues and cells in the body.

Propylene glycol and glycerin, ingredients in e-cigarette liquids, may cause lung, eye, and airway irritation and inflammation. The chemicals released by e-cigarettes when heated can lead to cell damage.

These products haven’t been on the market long enough to know the exact risks yet. More data is needed.

JUUL is the most popular brand of e-cigarette sold in the United States and is now available in only three flavors. In early 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned all flavored e-cigarette products except tobacco and menthol to reduce popularity with children and teens.

The product has a slim design and looks similar to a USB flash drive. It can be recharged with a computer.

The product has several components

It includes:

  • liquid disposable pods with nicotine (3 and 5 percent)
  • a battery-operated device used to heat liquid
  • a heating element that turns the liquid into an aerosol for inhalation
  • a mouthpiece to inhale

Puffing on the mouthpiece activates the element that heats the liquid to be inhaled as an aerosol. Depending on the rate of puffing, different amounts of nicotine and other substances are released by the JUUL pod.

Based on published studies, it’s difficult to say right now with certainty if any electronic cigarette products cause cancer. But studies do show an increase in cellular damage with exposure to nicotine and other emissions from e-cigarettes.

Nicotine in JUUL and other electronic cigarettes is higher than traditional cigarettes, and it may increase the risk of lung injury, including the risk of lung cancer.

A preliminary study by the American Chemical Society tested the saliva of volunteers after they inhaled from an e-cigarette. They found higher levels of acrolein, a chemical released when the liquid from an e-cigarette is heated. It caused DNA damage from exposure. Long term, this might increase the risk of oral cancer.

Another animal study found e-cigarette aerosol exposure can damage lung, heart, and bladder DNA. Those using e-cigarettes may have a higher risk of harm than nonsmokers. More human studies are needed to determine the impact of DNA damage in people.

Studies show some e-cigarette devices release harmful chemicals when heated.

Brands vary in the amount of discharge from the units and their effects. Heating elements, liquid solvents, and the power of the device can all affect the amount of nicotine and emissions released from the device.

Animal studies have shown an increased risk of lung-related injury with e-cigarette use.

Emissions from e-cigarettes may include:

  • formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer
  • volatile organic compounds (VOC), some of which may cause cancer or irritate lungs
  • acrolein, which is a lung irritant
  • acetaldehyde
  • glycidol
  • metals and metalloids, including aluminum, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, selenium, tin, and zinc
  • propylene oxide

Much is still unknown about the long-term effects of using e-cigarette products like JUUL. So, it’s too soon to say these products may be somewhat safer than traditional cigarettes.

Teens are at greater risk of moving to traditional cigarettes after e-cigarette use. This is why new regulatory changes have recently been passed to make e-cigarettes less attractive to youth by banning popular flavored liquids.

Research on the different parts of e-cigarette devices and their effects is ongoing — including the chemical compounds released when the liquid is heated, the heating element coils, and the amount of nicotine released when inhaling.

The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive, and using other nicotine-containing products together can increase cravings and also lead to nicotine poisoning. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning can include headache, nausea, vomiting, and irregular heart rate.

Deciding to quit smoking is an important health goal that’ll reduce your risk of developing cancer and other health problems. Talk with your doctor about all the available treatment options to help you quit.

JUUL and other electronic cigarettes aren’t FDA approved as smoking cessation tools.