A certain brand of e-cigarettes are probably as addictive as smoking, researchers believe.
JUUL’s pod-based vaping devices can deliver users more nicotine at a faster rate than most other types, according to a US study.
Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine found that concentrations of nicotine in blood was almost three times as high in people who used the brand compared to most of the other vaping devices.
Devices in the UK are regulated more tightly than in the US, and JUUL vapes are available in lower strengths in the UK in keeping with EU regulations.
One of the authors, Jessica Yingst, said: “The JUUL users we studied obtained blood nicotine concentrations almost three times as high as most of the e-cigarette users we previously studied.
“JUUL’s nicotine delivery is very similar to that of cigarettes.”
Co-author Jonathan Foulds, a professor of public health sciences, added: “In previous studies, we found that e-cigarette users were less addicted than smokers.
“However, the high nicotine delivery of the product and the scores on this study suggest that JUUL is probably as addictive as cigarettes.”
They asked six regular JUUL users to puff on their device, which contained a nicotine concentration 59 mg/ml, 30 times – once every 20 seconds.
JUUL devices in the UK are available in strengths of 9mg/ml and 18 mg/ml – under the maximum 20mg/ml allowed in the EU.
Blood samples were collected during and after, and then the results were compared with more than 3,000 long-term users of other electronic cigarettes also in the US.
Users of the JUUL pod-based vapes had an average nicotine boost of 28.6 ng/mL in 8.7 minutes.
Other devices delivered an average of 1.8 ng/mL in 10 minutes and an average of 10.8 ng/mL in 12.1 minutes, when puffing at the same rate.
In previous research they found that JUUL delivered lower levels of some harmful chemicals than cigarettes and some other e-cigarettes.
They say the results pose a dilemma for public health experts, with the need to weigh up the “high addiction potential” of e-cigarettes versus them being a way for smokers to consume nicotine in a less harmful way.
Prof Foulds said: “This type of product is likely addictive and is attractive to teenagers.
“But those same qualities that make it addictive may enable it to help adult smokers switch to a much less harmful form of nicotine consumption.”
The authors said the small sample size was a limitation.
A JUUL Labs spokesman said their devices were designed to convert adult smokers from using cigarettes, so they “sought to create a nicotine-based e-liquid that mimicked the nicotine experience associated with cigarette use”.
They continued: “In terms of actual nicotine absorption, our clinical studies have consistently shown that JUUL use at 5% strengths results in a nicotine uptake similar to, but lower in concentration than, a reference combustible cigarette.
“Our significant switch rates among adult smokers to JUUL products demonstrate the importance of these design and product choices.
“Behavioural studies of tens of thousands of JUUL users demonstrate approximately half of adult smokers who purchase and use JUUL products switch completely from smoking cigarettes within six months at their follow-up assessment.”
The findings are published in JAMA Open Network.