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Few adults start using JUUL to quit smoking, new study finds

Although the maker of JUUL — the most popular e-cigarette that has driven a youth vaping epidemic — claims the product is intended to help adult smokers stop using cigarettes and switch completely to e-cigarettes, new research shows that few adult smokers are using the product and even fewer are using it as a way to quit smoking.

Of the 15% of adult tobacco users who have tried JUUL, only about one-third used the product as a way to quit, according to a new study published in Tobacco Control. Nearly as many — 32% — reported that they used JUUL because family, friends or colleagues use it. The number who tried JUUL to quit smoking is even lower for young adult smokers. Just 1 in 5 smokers between ages 18 and 24 first tried the product to quit combustible tobacco.

For the few who are using JUUL to quit smoking, it’s not likely to be effective because most of the adults surveyed — 73% — are also using cigarettes and are not completely switching to vaping. Only 3.2% of respondents exclusively used e-cigarettes. Most adult users of JUUL are also using the product infrequently. About three-quarters reported that they used JUUL for five days or fewer in the past month. While previous studies show frequent use of e-cigarettes may be a helpful quit tool, occasional use with other products is unlikely to help smokers quit. 

This study underscores that JUUL is most popular among young people and not the company’s stated target audience. Researchers even found sharp contrasts in use between younger adults and older adults. For example, about one-quarter of tobacco users between 18 and 34 years old reported using JUUL in the past 30 days, compared with just 3% of 35- to 54-year-olds.

In 2018, 20% of high school students reported vaping, a 78% increase in just one year. JUUL, which accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. e-cigarette market, has some of the highest nicotine content available among e-cigarettes.

“These findings undermine JUUL’s stated goal of switching cigarette smokers to JUUL,” according to the study’s authors. “Our study provides information on patterns of dual use of JUUL with other combustible tobacco and indicates that reasons for initiation do not match JUUL’s ‘switching’ market focus.” 

Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 tobacco users (current users of cigarettes, cigars, little cigars or cigarillos) between 18 and 54 years old from March to May 2018.

Read the full report.