Vapes and JUUL pods: How Bad Are These Cigarette Alternatives?

It’s no secret cigarettes can lead to serious health problems including lung cancer, heart disease, and more. But what about the 21st century alternatives? Recently vapes and JUUL pods have become popular among all age groups — especially young adults. But are they any safer than old-time cigarettes?


A young man vapes on a city street. | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Vaping is safer than cigarettes — but it’s not harmless

The act of vaping means inhaling water vapor through an electronic cigarette or vaporizer. Vaping has become an alternative to smoking for a lot of young Americans, and it is technically safer than a traditional cigarette. These “e-cigs” or vapes, as they’re typically referred, can supply nicotine without the toxins and tobacco that cigarettes supply. In that sense, they’re safer. Plus, they don’t produce the same smoke that cigarettes do, so they cut down secondhand smoking.

But doctors urge young adults to understand that vaping still has negative effects. It still allows you to inhale nicotine, the addictive chemical found in cigarettes. Essentially, vaping is “safer” but it isn’t “safe.”

One JUUL pod contains the nicotine of 20 cigarettes

If you’ve seen a lot of people smoking out of flash drives lately, you’re not going crazy. Enter the JUUL pod, a small, USB-looking device that actually serves the same purpose as an e-cigarette — it’s just a lot more discreet. But according to, one JUUL pod contains 20 cigarettes’ worth of nicotine. Depending on how frequently you smoke it, you could be exposing your body to extremely high levels of the addictive chemical. Plus, those who vape are four times more likely to start smoking later in life.

What does nicotine actually do?

Besides its addictiveness, nicotine creates problems in blood circulation. It can lead to heart issues, such as plaque building up on artery walls and enlargement of the aorta, the heart’s main artery. Plus, prolonged nicotine in the body can up your risk of severe blood clots, which can lead to serious problems, such as amputation, heart attack, and death. When nicotine enters your body, it messes with your heart’s rhythm, which can increase blood pressure and eventually lead to heart disease.

Those who try to quit their nicotine addiction often have a very hard time doing so. That’s why those who vape are much more likely to start smoking cigarettes. Cravings are a large part of ending a nicotine addiction, and quitting cold turkey can lead to anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Do we know how much ‘safer’ vaping and JUUL pods are?

The short answer is no. Cigarettes have been around for decades, and plenty of research has proven their danger. But vaping is new, and these JUUL pods haven’t been studied to the same extent cigarettes have. It’s still too early to tell exactly how much safer vaping is than smoking, but one thing is certain: Nicotine is dangerous, and it still exists in vapes. Plus, some preliminary studies of vapes have found cancerous toxins, which most vape companies claim do not exist. The vaping trend is very popular among young adults, but there is no question it’s a dangerous hobby.

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