Young Adults Don’t Always Know What’s In Their Vape Pods

According to new research from a Stanford University team, young adults often don’t know what’s in their nicotine vape pods, including what brand they use.

Pod-based e-cigarettes look a lot like thumb drives, but they are vaping devices. They consist of a vaporizer base powered by a rechargeable battery, and vape pods that you snap on top of that base. These small, plastic pods are typically filled with nicotine-infused fluids, and sometimes flavors.

The team asked 445 California residents, ages 17 to 24, about their use of pod-based e-cigarettes. They asked specific questions about which products the participants used, including products from JUUL, Myblu, Phix, and Suorin Drop.

The team collected the data in early 2019 as part of the longitudinal Tobacco Perceptions Study, which examines nicotine and tobacco marketing susceptibility, perceptions, and use among California youth. Researchers first recruited study participants as ninth or 12th graders at one of 10 high schools statewide in 2013 and 2014. These findings come from the last phase of data collection in the study.

Detailed Data About Nicotine Vape Pods
Participants in the study completed a questionnaire. They responded to detailed questions about their nicotine use. They included traditional cigarettes, JUUL-style pod-based e-cigarettes, and other e-cigarette history.

The questionnaire also asked participants about why they used pod-based vapes, and their perceptions of these products’ nicotine content.

The team found that 26.3 percent of the participants vaped JUUL, with much lower numbers using other pod-based vapes. 23 percent had used nonpod-style e-cigarettes. 24 percent had smoked traditional cigarettes.

Among participants who had tried nicotine products, people were much more likely to have more recently used a JUUL device, with 51.3 percent of those reporting trying JUUL over the last 30 days. In contrast, only 28.6 percent of those who had ever smoked had done so within the last 30 days, while an almost identical 28.7 percent of non pod vape triers had used them within the last 30 days.

(Given that JUUL vape pods seem to contain more nicotine than other brands, brand preference does seem to matter.)

About half of pod-based e-cigarette users, including JUUL users, share pods with friends. Nearly half did not know if they always used same brand cartridges as their devices.
In fact, the most common reason—at 58 percent—among participants for choosing pod-based vapes was ease of concealing them. The next most common reason, at 55.6 percent, was that they produce a less noticeable smell than other types of e-cigarettes.

Users Don’t Know Nicotine Amounts
Participants did not know how much nicotine was in the products they were using. At the time they completed the surveys, JUUL labels said only “5%.” (They have since been altered to read, “5% nicotine.”) However, the researchers found that the participants were neither able to calculate what the 5 percent meant in terms of the actual nicotine quantity, nor to accurately compare it with the amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes.

As well, more than half of the participants did not know how long they typically take to finish a cartridge or vape pod. This could demonstrate that younger people use and share these products without paying much attention to nicotine amount or dosage, or potential for addiction.