(CNN/Gray News) – A new study finds that e-cigarettes, packed with high concentrations of nicotine, are a gateway to addiction for young users.
You’ve probably heard of Juul by now. It has been around since June of 2015, and millions of high school children have already “Juuled,” or vaped, using the device.
What you may not know, however, is how Juul's high 5-percent nicotine pods have caused a so-called "nicotine arms race" across the vaping industry.
"When Juul came on the market three-and-a-half years ago, the vapor market was mostly 1 and 2 percent nicotine. It’s now 6 to 7 percent nicotine,” said Robert Jackler at the Stanford University School of Medicine, noting that a tiny Juul cartridge delivers the same amount of nicotine as an entire box of Camel cigarettes.
Jackler makes his case against the vaping industry in a study published in the BMK journal Tobacco Control.
His research group has been tracking the industry for nearly a decade.
"The first time I Juuled was at the end of eighth grade,” said 15-year-old Phillip Fuhrman. “My friend handed it to me and I had no idea what it was."
He didn’t know about the risks.
“When I started hearing all the facts and everything bad about it, it was already too late. I was already hooked onto it,” Phillip said.
His story has become a familiar one.
"When Juul came out with very-high nicotine electronic cigarettes, it triggered a nicotine arms race amongst competitive companies seeking to emulate the success of Juul,” Jackler said.
So far, Juul is winning the race.
The company now controls about three-quarters of the vaping market in the United States.
While federal law prohibits selling these products to minors, Jackler worries that vaping companies like Juul are using new technology to pack more nicotine into their products.
"There's no regulation of the amount of nicotine in electronic cigarettes,” Jackler said. “Highly concentrated nicotine solutions are potently addictive.”
And it’s well known that nicotine addiction is a very difficult to break.
“I’d be waking up in the middle of the night. I’d have cold sweats or whatever,” the Phillip said. “It was just not a great experience.”
The problem is many of these children have never smoked before and are suddenly exposed to the same nicotine levels as a full pack of cigarettes with no chance to build up any tolerance.
Juul said it’s taken swift action against counterfeit and infringing products and is committed to preventing youth from accessing its products.
Juul also says there were products on the market in the range of 4 to 5 percent nicotine before its rise in popularity.
But Jackler says the majority of products were much lower when Juul launched, and it was the popularity of Juul that sent nicotine levels soaring.
“We hear that sixth grade is doing it. Fourth grade is doing it,” said Dorian Fuhrman, Phillip’s mom and the co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes (PAVE). “These kids are facing a lifetime of serious nicotine addiction.”
Phillip said he continues to struggle with it.
“I still sometimes crave a Juul and it’s really hard to say no because there are really Juuls everywhere, so it’s really hard to fully stop.”