Study: Juul Pods Contain Caffeine. What’s It Doing There, And What Does It Do?

Juul pods have never been more boring and flavorless. This is thanks to President Donald Trump.
Once available throughout the United States in a cornucopia of varieties including cucumber, mango and crème brulee, under threat of a looming government, Juul pulled all flavors except from mint and tobacco from shelves starting in late 2019.

Ever since, flavor seekers have been forced to suffer through the earthy bitterness of “flue-cured” Virginia tobacco or seek illicit-market options, including buying forbidden Juul pods from “friends” in overseas locations where the flavor pods are still available, like Russia.
But according to a recent study, over the past few years, American Juul users might have found an extra kick in their pods regardless. According to an analysis published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry in October, some Juul pods also contain trace amounts of an even more popular drug than nicotine. They also contain caffeine.
While some companies market pods that fit Juul devices that contain the extremely popular stimulant—and are advertised as such—Juul does not. According to the company’s website, Juul pods contain only four ingredients: nicotine, and the additives propylene glycol, glycerine, and benzoic acid, which serve as thickeners and preservatives.
This begs a question or two. Where’d the caffeine in Juul pods come from—and what does it do the user?
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Forensic Science analyzed the contents of 241 nicotine and cannabis vaporizer products found on the market over the past few years. In addition to vaporizer cartridges and e-juice, the researchers also investigated the content of Juul pods.
According to their paper “A Retrospective Analysis of Chemical Constituents in Regulated and Unregulated E-Cigarettes,” they found ten chemicals in Juul pods. These included caffeine, which appeared in concentrations averaging 23.5 micrograms per milliliter in Classic Tobacco pods, and averaging 9.3 μg/ml in Menthol-flavored pod.
Through a spokesman, Juul declined to comment (though it’s worth pointing out that the company no longer sells “Classic Tobacco” pods; “Virginia Tobacco” only, please.)

Would you like some caffeine with your vapor? AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Would you like some caffeine with your vapor? AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

As per the researchers, caffeine that’s vaporized and then inhaled can be understood as more potent—the process increases caffeine’s bioavailability, meaning more of it is absorbed into the nervous system more easily than with, say, soaking ground coffee beans in extremely hot water and drinking the resultant brew.
As if nicotine weren’t addictive enough, in high enough quantities, added caffeine could also compel the user to crave a Juul pod, according to the researchers.
“The addition of caffeine to e-cig liquids could act as an initiation primer, leading to increased caffeine seeking and consumption and chances of caffeine addiction,” they wrote, noting that “caffeine consumption has been reported to increase the odds of smoking [and] the urge to smoke.”
Did Juul add caffeine to its pods in an attempt to make them more enjoyable, more stimulating, or more addictive? Highly unlikely, according to one expert, if for no other reason than it wouldn’t work.
According to Dr. Neal Benowitz, a researcher and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, the caffeine present is in levels too low for the user to notice.
“For comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams” of caffeine,” Benowitz said. At 25 micrograms per milliliter, “a bout of JUULing would deliver about 1/1000 of the caffeine in a cup of coffee,” he said. “Unlikely to have any significant effects.”
As for how it got there? Probably an accident, according to Benowitz.
“I can see no reason why they would add minute amounts of caffeine,” he added. “Most likely a contaminant in some flavor chemicals they purchased and did not know about.”
Nevertheless, as the Virginia Commonwealth researchers point out, if Juul knew that pods contained caffeine, they didn’t include it on the labels. And the findings come at a tricky time for Juul, which is still waiting to hear from President Joe Biden’s federal government whether its products can be sold in the United States.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration began removing tens of thousands of e-cigarette products from the market in August, about a year after it started evaluating product applications.
However, as a leading Democratic senator recently reminded the FDA, the agency is now more than three months behind ruling on Juul’s “premarket tobacco application.” There’s no clear sign when the agency will rule.
And as the Virginia Commonwealth researchers demonstrated, even Juul itself may not know what’s in store for Juul users the next time they go shopping for a pod.

A top exec at upstart health insurer Oscar just joined the board of vape company Juul

Joel Klein, a top executive at health insurer Oscar Health, has joined the board of directors of Juul Labs, an e-cigarette company that’s landed itself in hot water over the years for allegedly marketing its products to school kids.

Klein is the chief policy and strategy officer at Oscar, which went public earlier this month in an IPO that valued the company at $8.6 billion. He previously spent eight years as the chancellor of New York City public schools under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Politico first reported Klein’s appointment.

Joel Klein. Business Insider
Joel Klein. Business Insider

“I believe the company must continue to play a critical role in reducing the devastating harm caused by smoking,” Klein said in a statement emailed to Insider. “To accomplish that paramount goal, Juul Labs must, first and foremost, continue preventing underage use of its products.”

Oscar declined to comment on Klein’s appointment.

Juul has come under fire for playing a role in creating a youth vaping epidemic.

In 2019, a House subcommittee held hearings that revealed Juul had marketed its addictive vapes to children and teenagers, and paid schools and summer camps to give presentations to students. The US Food and Drug Administration and a group of 39 state attorneys general have also investigated the company’s marketing practices.

Juul has since halted all advertising and stopped selling fruit-flavored vapes that kids liked. In an email to employees, Juul CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said Klein would help hold the company accountable as it works to combat underage vape use.

“As our company continues our efforts to combat underage usage, invest in science and research, and execute against our product road map for adult smokers, Joel and the entire board will help ensure that we deliver on our mission,” he wrote.

How is Juul vape brand in 2020?

Since Crosthwaite took the helm of the Juul e-cigarette brand for one year, Juul has stopped most of its promotion activities in the United States, stopped promoting candy and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes in the United States, and has begun to reverse its overseas expansion.

According to people familiar with the matter, Juul’s sales in the US, Canada and the UK accounted for more than 90% of the company’s total sales in the first quarter of this year.

According to Goldman Sachs analyst Bonnie Herzog, Juul’s market share in the United States has dropped from 75% in November 2018 to 58% today. At that time, Juul voluntarily stopped selling its sweet and fruit-flavored products in US retail stores. In the four weeks ending August 8, Juul’s total sales at US retailers fell 33% year-on-year.

The largest investor in this startup is Altria Group Inc., the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes. Juul disrupted the American tobacco industry in 2017 and became the leader of the e-cigarette market. Altria acquired a 35% stake in Juul in 2018, when Juul was valued at $38 billion, making it one of the most valuable start-ups in the United States. The financial situation disclosed by Juul recently to employees shows that Juul’s sales last year were US$2 billion, but its loss reached US$1 billion. In the first quarter of this year, the company reported total sales of $394 million, but lost $46 million. Altria’s current valuation of Juul is only $12 billion. After a series of contraction plans, we can only wait and see how Juul will go.

Counterfeit Juul e-cigarette manufacturer busted in China

Juul Labs helped Chinese authorities take down a manufacturer that allegedly ripped off its vapes and sold the fakes overseas, the company said Friday.

The operation was one of the largest ever broken up by the e-cigarette maker in its efforts to crack down on potentially dangerous counterfeit products that could make their way to underage buyers, company officials say.

Shenzhen Kang Erqiang Electronic Technology Co. — which hawked bogus Juul vape devices and flavor pods under the name Sourvape Technology — sold about $324,000 worth of counterfeit items over a 16-month period starting in 2018, Juul said.

“While these are the numbers Chinese authorities used in court during prosecution, actual sales could be far more significant,” said Adrian Punderson, Juul’s vice president of brand enforcement.

The probe led to the August conviction of the Shenzhen factory’s operator, who confessed to his involvement in the scheme and was sentenced to more than three years in prison, Punderson said. Juul said it was informed of the conviction earlier this month.

The operation courted e-cigarette retailers and distributors with email blasts boasting about how perfectly it could produce Juul’s packaging, according to the startup. Juul officials learned about these emails in February 2019 and started an investigation, posing as a buyer to try and identify who was behind the scheme, the company said.

Juul reps ultimately got inside the counterfeiter’s factory in March of last year, where about 15 employees worked to churn out fake Juul products six days a week, according to the company.

Juul said the operation was even producing pods in flavors such as mango and cucumber, which the company stopped selling in the US last year amid concerns about teens getting hooked on its e-cigarettes.

Juul passed on its findings to Chinese authorities, who launched their own probe and eventually seized 14,600 bogus items when they raided the factory in April 2019, according to Juul.

Juul says its efforts to crack down on counterfeiters have led to the seizure of more than 600,000 items worth close to $4 million over the past year. The shady manufacturers — who primarily operate in China — sell their products for as much as 65 percent below Juul’s standard wholesale price, but those products could be dangerous because they’re made in unsanitary conditions without proper testing or quality control, according to the company.

“As a leader in vapor technology, it is our obligation to support enforcement against illicit and illegal products as we strive to reset the vapor category and earn a license to operate in society,” Punderson said in a statement.

Juul to Cut Jobs, Considers Exit From Asia and Europe

Juul Labs has said it is planning another significant round of layoffs and considering halting sales across Europe and Asia. That could mean pulling out of as many as 11 countries and shrinking the company’s footprint to its core markets of the U.S., Canada and the U.K., according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Juul cut about one-third of its 3,000 workers earlier this year and already has halted sales of its vaporizers in several countries. The once fast-growing company has been scaling back its operations to combat a sharp drop in sales. It currently has about 2,200 employees, the story states.

Widely blamed by parents and government officials for a surge in teen vaping in the U.S., Juul has faced regulatory crackdowns and investigations into its marketing practices over past two years. Now its sales are falling as Reynolds American Inc.’s Vuse e-cigarette brand gains market share and some vapers switch back to traditional cigarettes.

Juul Chief Executive K.C. Crosthwaite told employees in an email Wednesday that the business units under review don’t generate enough revenue to support further spending there. He said the cuts would allow the company to invest in developing new products, in technology to curb youth use and in scientific research that could help the company demonstrate to regulators that its products are less harmful than cigarettes.

Juul has submitted a new version of its vaporizer designed to unlock only for users at least 21 years old to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration according to people familiar with the matter, the story states.

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Juul Files More Lawsuits Against Retailers Selling Fake E-Cigs Under Their Name

Last month, Juul Labs Inc. filed a patent-infringement complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington, disclosing the names of over four dozen companies that are importing copied illicit cartridges for its devices.

Besides fake products, Juul is also fighting “gray market” products, ie. devices and cartridges produced to be sold in overseas markets but unlawfully imported into the U.S.

The manufacturer has also filed six trademark-infringement lawsuits in the States of Alabama, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Texas, against shop owners selling “fake, copied, and non-genuine versions of Juul Products and related packaging,” and accuse them of selling counterfeits and “gray market” products. This means that these products were produced to be sold in overseas markets but unlawfully imported into the U.S.

Juul Labs has now announced that many more lawsuits are to follow, and the U.S. International Trade Commission is considering a Juul request to block imports and sales of imported, unauthorized cartridges.

These lawsuits are part of Juul’s “global enforcement program, directed at disrupting the illicit trade of black-market vapor products to create a more responsible marketplace for current adult users while addressing under-age use,” and more importantly part of the brand’s efforts to regain credibility.

Striving to gain credibility

Last month, Juul Chief Executive Officer K.C. Crosthwaite pledged to do his utmost to repair the image of the company, which in recent months has itself been at the receiving end of multiple lawsuits. “This new ITC action, if successful, would provide the additional public benefit of helping rid the market of unauthorized Juul-compatible products that can be modified by the user, such as empty and refillable pods, or those containing substances such as THC for which the Juul system was not designed,” Juul said in a statement.

Read Further: Bloomberg

Colorado Attorney General Sues Juul for Marketing to Minors

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Juul vape submitted PMTA

American e-cigarette brand Juul Labs announced on July 31 that it had submitted a pre-market tobacco product application for the company’s JUUL System (an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) product) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (PMTA).

Juul’s application products include comprehensive scientific evidence of Juul devices and Juul mainframes for Virginia tobacco and menthol cartridges with a nicotine concentration of 5.0% and 3.0%, as well as information on data-driven measures used by minors of its products. The application includes detailed scientific data containing 110 studies, a total of 125,000 pages, to evaluate the impact of the product on current users and non-users (including minors) of tobacco products.

Vapers Sue Juul For Nicotine Addiction

VAPERS and their families are suing e-cigarette manufacturers Juul for getting them addicted to nicotine.

Three lawsuits have been filed against Juul Labs involving plaintiffs as young as 15, it has been revealed this week.

They claim in court filings the device is marketed towards teenagers, contain more nicotine than combustible cigarettes – and the resulting addiction is disrupting their lives.

The US vape company has already been at the centre of increasing controversy this year as its products have been slammed by the media, public health organizations and well-meaning parents and teachers for creating an “epidemic” of teenage vaping.

The news is the latest in a long line of controversial headlines for the US e-cigarette manufacturer who has been criticised by the media, government, consumer groups and well-meaning parents who blame it for a so-called “epidemic” of teenage vaping.

The Food and Drug Administration has since been forced to investigate Juul Labs and the nicotine content of its devices as well as its marketing strategies.

Now, according to Wired, three court cases have been filed against the company.
Now, according to Wired, at least three complaints against JUUL have been filed in courts across the country.

The first was filed in April in U.S. District Court by Bradley Colgate of La Jolla, California and Kaytlin McKnight of Arroyo Grande, California. In court documents, Colgate reports that he’s now addicted to JUUL nicotine pods after using it to stop smoking cigarettes.
According to the lawsuit, “the intense dosage of nicotine salts delivered by the Juul products resulted in an increased nicotine addiction, and an increased consumption of nicotine by Colgate.”

Another complaint filed in San Francisco by Carl Cooper said the JUUL nicotine pods turned him from a casual weekend cigarette smoker to an addict.

“Whereas Cooper had never felt the need to smoke on a daily basis, he now finds that he feels compelled to vape JUUL pods every day,” the suit says, according to the news outlet.
The third complaint was filed by the parents of D.P., a teen in New York who became “heavily addicted to nicotine” after he started using it during high school. The JUUL nicotine pods caused him to be “anxious, highly irritable and prone to angry outbursts,” according to the lawsuit, and he performed poorly in school.

His parents moved him to a different high school, but “despite all these measures, D.P. is unable to stop Juuling,” the suit claims. His “urges” to use JUUL are strong that “he is unable to avoid Juuling even though it subjects him to disciplinary measures at home and at school.”

Their advertising campaigns have also come under scrutiny, and the lawsuit filed on behalf of DP’s mother includes images from Juul ads that feature bright colors and a girl who looks in her teens holding the vape.

The lawsuit also points out the device and its pods do not include warnings.

One of its headings makes a bold accusation against the e-cigarettes: “The Juul e-cigarettes’ candy-like flavors and youth-centric marketing efforts, coupled with defendants’ sales practices, have created a youth addiction crisis.

“As a proximate result of Defendants’ misconduct, D.P. is addicted to nicotine, putting him at serious risk for life-long health problems…Health risks aside, DP also faces a lifetime of economic losses needed to sustain a nicotine addiction for the remainder of his life,’ the suit goes on to claim.

Attorneys for DP’s mother are seeking compensatory and punitive damages to be paid to DP’s family by Juul and co-defendant Pax.

The JUUL pods contain 5 per cent nicotine, similar quantities to a packet of cigarettes and the devices which hold them look similar to flash drives, which has been blamed for teenagers being drawn to them because they are easily concealed. The company has recently announced plans, however, to roll out pods with lower nicotine content.

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Underage Juuling and Four More Moral Panics

Interest groups, the media and well-intentioned parents are fuelling a moral panic about underage ‘Juuling’.

Hungry for views, many news carriers have written countless stories about the ‘epidemic’ of vaping in schools. Some have even spread fanciful concerns about cocaine e-liquid.

One of the keen drivers behind the moral panic in America has been interest groups like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. These groups want the FDA to bring in new restrictions that will damage vaping companies.

Juul devices are at the centre of this new moral panic

A moral panic is an intense sense of fear that spreads rapidly through society. It usually centres on some perceived ‘evil’ that will corrupt the well-being of society.

In reality, this perceived evil is nowhere near as common as the blanket media coverage would suggest. In some circumstances, the evil is just a kind of urban legend.

Moral panics can have an impact on public perceptions and political policies.

The moral panic concept has been applied to numerous phenomenon including gangs, terrorism and illegal immigration. Researchers argue that moral panics have shaped laws in all of these areas.

The reality of underage vaping is far removed from the picture portrayed in the media of vape products corrupting vulnerable teenagers.

The overwhelming majority of people who use e-cigarettes are current or former adult smokers.

Research shows that e-cigarettes are rarely used by young people who have not previously smoked. In Europe, fewer than 0.5% of those who have never smoked use e-cigarettes.

An extensive review of available evidence revealed a growing consensus that vaping is at least 95% safer than cigarette smoking.

We’ve decided to compare this moral panic with some other famous moral panics.

Satanic Panic

In 1980, Parents across America were concerned that their child was being exposed to satanic ritual abuse their local daycare.

Their suspicions were ‘confirmed’ by law enforcement using controversial ‘recovered memories’ from children.

A massive trial resulted in no convictions at McMartin Preschool in California, which was the epicentre of the satanic abuse claims.

Today, the affair is held up as one of the most unbelievable moral panics that was driven largely by one mentally unstable parent.

Rainbow Parties

Children and teenagers are at the centre of a lot of moral panics and so is sex.

Another example of teenage moral panics are so called ‘rainbow parties’, where girls apparently wear different coloured lipsticks and, one-by-one, perform oral sex on a group of boys.

We can’t say for sure that these kinds of parties never happened, but there is certainly no evidence that these parties were widespread.

Many sex researchers and adolescent-health professionals say that rainbow parties simply aren’t a big part of teenage sexual behaviour.

Flashing Headlights

Violence also figures prominently in moral panics. And the “don’t flash your headlights” story is one of the most unbelievable.

The story goes that, in order to get into a gang, a prospective member would have to driver around with their headlights off and murder the first person who flashed at them.

It started out with bikers and then moved onto youth gangs in LA in the 1990s, but the story is a complete urban legend.

In more than 30 years since this story first emerged, no police department has recorded a single example of this happening.

Bath Salts

Drugs also make good moral panic fodder. And the moral panic that surrounded the spread of ‘bath salts’ was very intense.

It all started with Rudy Eugene, the man who chewed the face off a homeless guy before being shot dead by Miami police.

The crime was initially blamed on ‘bath salts’ – synthetic recreational drugs that are chemically similar to crystal meth.

These drugs were federally legal at the time and there were immediate calls for them to be banned. But when Eugene’s toxicology report came back it emerged he hadn’t taken any such drugs.

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What is Juuling and is it safe?

Have you heard of Juuling? I would be surprised if you haven’t.

It’s the latest vaping craze and one that has got a lot of people riled up. You might have heard about Juuling in the latest college campus blog, or in the national press or even in correspondence from your son or daughter’s school.

But what does Juuling mean, and is it something to worry about?

Technically, Juuling just means vaping with a Juul branded device.

Juul make pod mod devices that look like pen drives and can be plugged directly into a computer USB port.

But Juuling has also become synonymous with other types of vaping, particularly when the media talks about underage vaping in schools.

What is different about Juul devices?

Juul devices have the most market share. According to market data, their devices accounted for 33% of e-cigarette sales in late 2017.

Juuls are not like big vape mod devices. They are small and flat and don’t produce large clouds of vapor.

Because they are less powerful and don’t burn as much e-liquid, the pod cartridges that are compatible with Juul e-cigarettes contain a higher concentration of nicotine.

While a box mod vaper might go through several ml of e-liquid each day, the Juul cartridges only contain 0.7ml of e-liquid. Some users will use one of these cartridges each day, but this is unlikely for newer vapers. The e-liquid also has a nicotine salt base, which makes the vapor less harsh.

By design, Juul pod mods very similar to many other mouth-to-lung pod mod devices. But unlike similar devices, the Juul cartridges are not refillable.

Perhaps the main difference between Juuls and other vaping products, however, is that you are more likely to find Juul devices in regular stores and gas stations than vape shops.

‘Juuling in the bathroom’

Juul devices have gained so much notoriety because of their perceived association with schoolyard use and underage vaping.

In some schools, the ‘Juuling in the bathroom’ problem has become so serious that administrators have sent emails home with warnings about underage vaping and a particular brand called Juul.

Some media commentators have suggested that Juul devices are discrete and easy to hide, making them easier to use around school and even in classes.

While tobacco cigarettes use has been declining amongst teenagers, research suggests that many high school students are using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are legally only available to be purchased by adults that are 18 and older. Online stores have strict age verification policies, but the widespread availability of Juul products in all kinds of shops make them relatively easy to get hold of.

Research indicates that the rapid market growth of Juul products has been driven by people in the 18-24 age bracket. Marketed as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, the products are popular with consciences young adults who are more switched onto the dangers of tobacco.

Is Juuling safe?

Vaping is still relatively new and there is no long-term data about the effects of vaping.

But many experts agree that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Parents and medical professionals worry about e-cigarettes because, although they do not contain many of the same toxins as tobacco cigarettes, they do contain nicotine.

Each Juul cartridge – which contains enough e-liquid for around 200 puffs – has about the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Minors should not use vaping products, but several respected health authorities advocate vaping as an alternative to smoking.

Public Health England declared that vaping is “at least 95% less harmful” than smoking tobacco.

The America Cancer Society agrees that switching from smoking to vaping could bring substantial health benefits.

This evidence is only relative to smoking. In addition, some parents are concerned that vaping products will encourage kids to take up smoking.

Teenage smoking has dropped to a very low level. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that just 4.2% of 12th graders smoked cigarettes daily in 2017, compared with 24.6% in 1997.

It is not clear what has caused this dramatic shift downwards but the growth of vaping and the perception of cigarettes will undoubtedly have played a part.

Image credit: “Juul in Hand” by Mylesclark96 is licensed under CC 

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