When electronic cigarette maker Juul’s e-juice pods hit the market in 2015 with nicotine levels well above competitors, it caused many other e-cigarette companies to begin producing products with higher nicotine levels in order to stay competitive in a “nicotine arms race,” according to a new study published Thursday in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control.
Juul’s flavored cartridges (or pods) came on the consumer market containing 5% nicotine, when competing products had closer to 1-3% nicotine at the time. Because Juul has such a massive market share in the U.S. of around 75% of all e-cig companies, this pushed other companies to ramp up to the now relatively common 5-7% nicotine rate in vape pen cartridges. But this is alarming for one key health-related reason. One flavored pod that contains 5% nicotine is equivalent to one pack of traditional cigarettes, and some people may vape more than one pod per day without thinking they are doing much damage to their bodies.
The report comes amid ongoing public health concerns, including from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials, that e-cigarettes with flavored pods are marketed toward young people. Research published at the beginning on February showed that teens that tried e-cigs were more likely to try traditional cigarettes later.
The authors of the Tobacco Control study warned in their conclusion of several grave consequences because of an ongoing lack of strict regulation around vaping products, noting that e-liquids now make it possible to buy nicotine in unprecedented concentrations—and in large quantities—which they said could “represent a childhood poisoning risk” and should require standardized labeling as a public health measure. “The rapidly rising popularity of high-nicotine e-liquids threatens to addict a generation of youth,” the study’s authors wrote.