The Juul Fad Is Far Bigger Than I Ever Would Have Guessed

The University of Michigan’s adolescent drug survey announced some dramatic results today:

Increases in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 were the largest ever recorded in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance use outcome in the U.S.

Here’s a chart:

I had two immediate reactions:

  • In just a few years, vaping has wiped out two decades of work getting teens to quit (or never start) cigarette smoking. In 1997, the survey recorded that 36 percent of 12th graders had smoked in the past 30 days. This year, the combination of vaping and cigarette use hit 34 percent.
  • Can this really be true? After three years of relative stability at around 15 percent, vaping suddenly skyrocketed to 27 percent in a single year?

Nearly all of the increase comes from an increase in vaping nicotine, and my skepticism about this disappeared when I looked up revenue figures for Juul, the top seller of vaping devices and pods. I knew that the Juul fad had practically taken over American high schools recently, but it turns out that Juul reported a monster revenue increase of nearly 800 percent between 2017 and 2018 (from $107 million to $942 million), and they control about 75 percent of the market. That’s enough all by itself to account for a huge single-year increase in vaping.

So the answer appears to be yes, this really can be true. Vaping in general, and Juul in particular, have wiped out years of hard work to get teens off of cigarettes. And since most of the increase is in vaping nicotine, it means we’re raising yet another generation of addicts, sucked in by the same kind of marketing that was originally used to suck them into cigarette smoking. What a crime this is.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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