Ingredients in JUULpods and other vaping products?


UPDATE January 2020: Recent illnesses have been linked to e-cigarette use (vaping). Since the specific causes of these cases of lung damage are not yet known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding all smoking products .

While vaping is touted by some as a less harmful alternative to smoking , the vapor generated by e-cigarettes is far from harmless. JUULpods (e-liquid cartridges used in JUUL devices) and other e-cigarette products contain ingredients that form an aerosol that can contain potentially harmful substances such as nicotine, metals, and toxins.

Here's what is known about the various ingredients in vaping products like JUULpods and how they can affect your health.


The main body of the vaping fluid is made up of solvents. These clear liquids serve as the base for the liquid and, when heated, emit vapor, hence the name "vaping."

The two most common solvents used in vaping products are propylene glycol and glycerin, and some products (such as JUUL) contain a combination of both .

  • Propylene Glycol – An odorless, tasteless liquid that absorbs water, it is used in cosmetics, food, medicine, and other moisture management products.
  • Glycerin – Also known as vegetable glycerin or glycerin, glycerin is a liquid used in various industries. Like propylene glycol, glycerin is odorless and has a syrupy consistency; however, it differs slightly in that it has a mild sweet taste.

Although the FDA considers these two solvents safe to swallow, it is not known how safe they are when heated or inhaled .

Vaping devices like the JUUL work by using hot coils to heat the liquid and create vapor. But the temperature of the coils can break down solvents and create new chemicals.

For example, when propylene glycol in coils is heated in an electronic cigarette, it can form acetone (hydroxyacetone) and 2-propen-1-ol (allyl alcohol); heated glycerin can form glycidol and acrolein. And both solvents can degrade and form formaldehyde, which can be toxic in high doses.

Get Drug Information / Louis Wange


Traditionally, vaping manufacturers like JUUL have added flavors to their products to make them taste better for users. Flavors are often used in foods to produce or enhance flavor, but the safety of these foods can be altered by inhaling rather than ingesting or touching them .

Diacetyl and benzaldehyde are two examples of flavoring ingredients that are added to e-cigarettes.


Diacetyl is a chemical that is sometimes added to vaping products to add rich flavors like toffee or caramel. Food manufacturers use this flavor in a wide range of possibilities, perhaps the most (un) famous in microwave popcorn; Diacetyl smells and tastes like butter.

But while diacetyl is generally considered safe to eat, it has the potential to damage the lungs if inhaled, leading to bronchiolitis obliterans , a condition more commonly known as "popcorn lung. "


It is a fragrance that smells a bit like almonds and is found in a wide range of products, including perfumes, medicines, and e-cigarettes.

Most research on the safety of benzaldehyde has focused on ingestion, but there is some evidence that inhaling large amounts of the chemical can irritate the airways and cause breathing difficulties .

The FDA currently prohibits the manufacture and sale of flavored vaping products (except menthol and tobacco). The new policy will go into effect on February 1, 2020 .

Risk of using scents for young people

The delicious flavors that are often added to vaping products have been a big part of its appeal, especially to young people. Kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy or fruit punch were especially popular with teens, who mentioned flavors as the most common ingredient in their vaping products .

Added flavors can also increase the risk of liquid poisoning in young children who mistake the liquid for candy or fruit juices. For young children in particular, contact with liquid nicotine, even through the skin, can cause nausea, vomiting, and death. According to the National Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers in the United States receive thousands of calls each year related to e-cigarettes and exposure to liquid nicotine .

The FDA's enforcement policy to restrict the use of unauthorized flavors in e-cigarettes has arisen because of these risks. However, some fake or homemade products may still contain these ingredients.


Vaping devices are also popular delivery mechanisms for mind-altering chemicals and additives, especially nicotine and THC.


Many vaping products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in traditional tobacco products. Nicotine affects the reward centers in the brain, making it difficult to quit nicotine once it starts. The more you use nicotine, the more your brain will start to depend on it for the same effect, and the harder it will be to stop it.

But addiction isn't the only risk associated with nicotine. It has also been linked to several other health problems, including :

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Preterm labor, miscarriage, and other reproductive health problems
  • Impaired cognitive functions such as learning, concentration, or memory.

Quantity in electronic cigarettes

The amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes varies from product to product. For example, JUULpods have two different levels of nicotine: 40 milligrams (mg), labeled 5% strength, and 23 mg, labeled 3% strength. A 5% strength tablet contains about the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. and about twice that of many other brands of e-cigarettes .

The high levels of nicotine in JUUL products may surprise many users. When surveyed, almost two-thirds (63%) did not suspect that JUUL capsules contain nicotine at all .

Not all vape juice manufacturers report how much nicotine their products contain, but even when they do, analysis shows that the content of the vape juice doesn't always match what's written on the packaging. One study, for example, found measurable amounts of nicotine in some vaping products, even though the labels say the product does not contain nicotine .

Note. E-cigarettes are not yet FDA approved for nicotine replacement therapy or smoking cessation.

Types of nicotine in e-cigarettes

And it's not just the presence of nicotine. The type of nicotine used in e-cigarettes can also affect how quickly the body absorbs the chemical, as well as how much a person can absorb.

JUUL, for example, uses a nicotine salt formulation, that is, nicotine extracted from natural tobacco leaves. It contains almost the same amount of nicotine as smoking, but (when combined with benzoic acid, another ingredient in JUULpods) it works much smoother. That is, it does not cause the same throat or chest irritation as flammable cigarettes , allowing people to inhale more deeply or more frequently, potentially exposing them to greater exposure to nicotine.

Most other vaping brands use a chemically altered form of nicotine known as free base nicotine . Freebase nicotine is technically more effective than the natural nicotine salts in tobacco, but it generally does not bother the throat or chest. As a result, the prescription nicotine salts used by manufacturers like JUUL are more effective than free base salts because they can use a higher concentration of nicotine without being harsh.

Nicotine in youth

While traditional tobacco use among middle and high school students has remained largely unchanged in recent years, e-cigarette use is on the rise. The estimated number of high school students using e-cigarettes like JUUL jumped from 11.7% in 2017 to 27.5% in 2019 .

Nicotine is especially dangerous for teens and young adults because their brains are not yet fully developed. As a result, developing nicotine dependence during adolescence can increase the likelihood of smoking or developing other substance use disorders (such as alcohol or cocaine) later in life .

As of December 20, 2019, the new minimum age is 21. to buy cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, or any other tobacco product in the United States .


As marijuana use became legal and decriminalized in many parts of the United States, e-cigarette products began to include options for vaping cannabis-derived substances such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

THC is a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana (particularly in the dried leaves and stems of marijuana). This is what makes people feel 'high' when using marijuana and can have profound consequences for the body.

Some of the health effects of THC include :

  • Altered body movement
  • Thinking of problems or solving problems
  • Loss of mental faculties, such as memory or learning.
  • Hallucinations or delusions (in high doses)

In the summer of 2019, cases of serious lung problems associated with vaping began to emerge across the United States. Many, but not all, sick people have used vaping products that contain THC. As a result, the FDA and CDC have warned people not to use e-cigarettes that contain THC .

Vitamin E Acetate

Vitamin E acetate is closely linked to serious lung problems caused by vaping. A 2020 study of 51 patients with lung damage caused by vaping found that vitamin E acetate was associated with 94% of their illness .

Vitamin E acetate has been used as an additive in electronic cigarettes, especially those containing THC. It is also a vitamin that is found in many foods and in skin care products. It is generally not harmful if ingested as a vitamin or applied topically, but it can cause lung damage if inhaled.

Vitamin E acetate should not be added to any vaping product, according to the CDC .


In some cases, the ingredients in vaping devices were not specifically added there. They are a by-product of the manufacturing process or a waste of the devices themselves. Some of the pollutants found in e-cigarettes include ultrafine particles and metals that can damage the lungs.

Ultrafine particles

Human lungs are not designed to handle foreign bodies, which is why smoking is so harmful. When you inhale cigarette smoke, small pieces of burned and processed tobacco get trapped in the delicate tissue of your lungs, causing inflammation and opening the door for toxic chemicals to enter your bloodstream.

Vaping does not burn tobacco leaves; heats liquids to form an aerosol. This vapor does not contain much of the waste found in cigarettes, but it can still contain ultrafine particles that can irritate sensitive tissue deep in the lungs .


The small coils that are used to heat liquids in steam devices are usually made of metal. Over time, small pieces of metal can enter the spray and eventually enter the lung tissue.

Some of the metals found in e-cigarette vapor include:

  • Aluminum is a metal that, if inhaled, can damage the lungs and lead to asthma or pulmonary fibrosis .
  • Chromium , a carcinogen associated with inhalational lung cancer
  • Copper , which can irritate the lungs and cause coughing, pain, or a runny nose.
  • Iron , which can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs causing coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Lead , a highly toxic metal that can damage the brain and kidneys, whether inhaled or ingested.
  • Manganese , which, if inhaled, can irritate the lungs and make it difficult to breathe.
  • Nickel , a carcinogen that, if inhaled, can cause lung cancer, as well as chronic bronchitis , emphysema , and pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Tin , which can cause pneumoconiosis (lung disease caused by mineral dust) or pneumonia.
  • Titanium , which can irritate the lungs and cause shortness of breath and bronchitis.

The types and concentrations of these metals vary greatly from one product to another; however, research shows that the amount of these metals in e-cigarette sprays often far exceeds what is considered safe, especially if inhaled .

A 2013 study found that the aerosol emitted by e-cigarettes contains as much lead as some traditional cigarettes, and even higher concentrations of other metals, nickel and iron .

Used vaping

The harmful substances in some e-cigarette sprays can affect more people than those who vaporize. Just as cigarettes can put other people at risk for inhaling secondhand smoke, there is some evidence that passive vaping can increase the chances that a non-user will be exposed to some of the ingredients found in e-cigarettes, especially nicotine .

Get the word of drug information

Vaping products are not always clearly labeled and some ingredient lists can be misleading or incomplete, especially given the chemical changes that can occur at different temperatures. Similarly, illegal or homemade vaping products may contain other harmful substances that are not yet known.

It's difficult to know what's in a product and more research is needed on how these ingredients can affect long-term health. However, there is enough evidence to show that the health risks of vaping can be significant, especially for children and young adults.

If you or someone you know is addicted to vaping, talk to your doctor right away about how to quit smoking.

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