Using a JUUL vape pen, or Juuling, may be bad for a person’s health due to the possible side effects. These can include coughing, a sore throat, headaches, and more. There may also be long-term risks of using e-cigarettes.

JUULs and other vape pens are less harmful than cigarettes, though people should be aware that these products carry their own risks. They still contain nicotine and many other chemicals, meaning that they are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

Keep reading to learn more about JUULs, including the associated risks and side effects.

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Image credit: Ethan Candelario/EyeEm/Getty Images

A JUUL is a form of e-cigarette that delivers nicotine to the lungs without using fire and smoke. The device is long and slender, looking somewhat similar to a pen or USB flash drive.

As with other e-cigarettes, vaping devices such as JUULs contain a heating element and a source of liquid, called vape juice, that contains nicotine.

JUUL is actually the name of specific e-cigarette devices that JUUL Labs manufacture, though many people now use the term in relation to other manufacturers’ vape pens.

Activating the device vaporizes the vape juice, delivering the nicotine to the lungs as vapor when the person inhales.

Burning a cigarette and inhaling the smoke exposes the lungs and bloodstream to various chemicals and compounds, increasing a person’s risk for a range of health issues.

E-cigarettes remove this smoke completely, instead delivering vaporized nicotine through a heating element. However, vaporizing the compounds in e-cigarette vape juice may carry its own side effects and health risks.

Common side effects

Side effects from e-cigarette use are common. Using e-cigarettes, JUULs, or other vaporizer devices may cause:

These side effects may be more common when a person first starts using vape products, and they may go away with time. They may also go away if the person stops using vape devices.

Ultrafine particles

Vaporizing e-cigarette juice creates very small vaporized particles and aerosols. These ultrafine particles can reach deep into the lungs, including the smallest airways, called bronchioles.

Particles in these bronchioles may cause damage and inflammation that lead to scarring of these tissues.

Additionally, a study in Pediatrics notes that these ultrafine particles may make their way into the circulatory system, potentially causing inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

Other nicotine use

E-cigarette use does not guarantee that a person will not use cigarettes. In some cases, e-cigarette use by nonsmokers and young people may actually lead them to use other products, such as cigarettes.

Smoking other products will lead to even more nicotine in the body, making it harder to quit either form of the drug.

Long-term risks

Vape devices are relatively new, and the long-term risks are still difficult to understand. E-cigarettes and vape devices expose the body to several potentially harmful substances, and long-term exposure to these substances may carry its own risks.

The potential risks to long-term exposure of these substances include:

  • respiratory issues
  • damage to the lung tissue
  • reproductive issues
  • circulatory issues

However, when it comes to linking e-cigarettes directly to long-term risk, there is still too little research to make any broad claims.

Other risks

E-cigarettes still expose the body to nicotine, which is an addictive substance. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services note that the liquid juice that the person inhales into their lungs contains other compounds that may be harmful, such as:

  • volatile organic compounds
  • heavy metals, such as tin, lead, and nickel
  • natural and artificial flavorants that may contain harmful ingredients
  • carbonyl compounds

While JUUL branded products and similar devices may feel different than larger vape pens or other devices, they behave in much the same way. A heating element warms the vape juice until it vaporizes, and the person inhales this vapor into the lungs.

Compared with other options, vape pens such as JUULs are more discrete. They produce minimal vapor, and the vapor that the person exhales quickly evaporates and disappears.

The devices themselves are also more discrete. A person may easily hide a JUUL in a pocket or purse, and it looks similar to a pen or flash drive.

Vape pens and JUULs are also different due to their easy access to different flavors and solutions. Other devices may require a person to mix their own solution or refill the device as the solution runs out.

Vape pens and JUULs provide cartridges or pods that attach to the device in seconds.

Rather than free nicotine, JUUL devices contain a proprietary blend of nicotine salts, mimicking the feel of tobacco use.

As with other e-cigarettes and vape pens, JUUL has numerous health risks and side effects, including:

Overuse and high nicotine

JUUL products and other vape pens have a risk for abuse and overuse. A JUUL pod containing 5% nicotine is equal to one pack of cigarettes. Many other companies and vape juices provide less nicotine, as they are designed for people looking to wean themselves off tobacco.

Regular JUUL users may expose themselves to much higher levels of nicotine when choosing these vape pens over other e-cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that people using these vape pens may become addicted faster than people smoking cigarettes.

Nicotine toxicity and seizures

The high levels of nicotine in JUUL pens may also increase the risk of nicotine toxicity with regular use. This toxicity may lead to serious health issues, such as seizures and neurological conditions. The FDA have linked vape pen use to several cases of seizures.

Teen use

JUUL products specifically also seem to appeal to young teens. The reasons for this may include the discrete nature of the device, the enjoyable flavor, and the high potency leading to a “high.”

In 2019, the FDA warned Juul Labs about their marketing, which involved youth outreach and other practices targeted at young teens, including the promotion of appealing flavors such as mango and fruit medley.

The company also made misleading statements that their product was a safe alternative to cigarettes, without providing any evidence for this claim.

Teen use of vape pens has risen in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that e-cigarette use among high-school students increased from 1.5% in 2011 to more than 20% in 2018. In middle-school students, this number went from 0.6% to 4.9% over the same period.

Teen use of nicotine products may be especially dangerous. Nicotine in a developing brain may quickly lead to addiction. Additionally, the nicotine can harm the adolescent’s brain development.

Addiction and nicotine use may also lead to changes in behavior, reduced impulse control, or mood fluctuations.

There is no completely safe form of nicotine use.

Manufacturers originally intended for e-cigarettes to be a way to help smokers wean themselves off nicotine and tobacco use. The idea was that by using much lower levels of nicotine while providing a similar experience to smoking, these devices would help the person quit.

The products are now a popular alternative to smoking, but they are not free of risks.

Those looking to quit smoking or vape devices may start by using vape juice with lower levels of nicotine to wean themselves off the habit.

Other nicotine products, such as patches and gums, may provide an alternative to help a person quit.

Anyone struggling with nicotine use should see a doctor. They may be able to offer more advice on how to wean the body off nicotine or quit immediately.

Anyone noticing concerning effects, such as a persistent cough or difficulty breathing, after using JUUL pens should also see a doctor for a diagnosis.

JUUL pens are an alternative to smoking. Although they eliminate combustion and tobacco, they are not safe because they still deliver high amounts of nicotine.

These devices deliver an addictive product, and they have associations with both short-term and long-term side effects and risks. Direct research into the long-term effects of JUUL use will take time.

Anyone concerned about their symptoms or possible nicotine addiction may wish to speak to a doctor.