Juul Labs UK JUUL Review. Designer Vape Pen or Menace?

First things first; the JUUL’s popularity appears to be driven by addiction as the USA version of the JUUL Pod contains 3 times as much nicotine as allowed by the UK regulators. It has been a double-edged sword for the Juul brand – success at a cost to users. The USA version is 59 mg/ml nicotine, the UK version is a fraction of that at 20 mg/ml.

The JUUL has potentially too many discreditable issues for this site, which promotes stopping smoking, to recommend the use of the JUUL as a device to help quit smoking. There is no doubt that you would be far better of with something fit for purpose like the Ripstick reviewed here.

Whilst the USA version of the Juul offers a hefty 59 mg/ml nicotine and does therefore deliver a nicotine hit, the very small coil and battery does not deliver enough vapour to make the UK’s 20 mg/ml nicotine feel anything like smoking. However to ensure our readers get the full picture, we have reviewed the Juul because of its popularity and notoriety in the USA and the fact it is now available in the UK albeit in a different low spec guise. Is the JUUL a menace or just a designer vape pen?

See the Juul and similar vape pod kits

Juul success

The JUUL vape device has been popular in the US, and it is the extreme nicotine content available in the USA version that has been highlighted as the reason for its popularity. JUUL have been heavily criticised for this and for marketing their device to a much younger audience. Juul has become the target of the likes of the FDA and other regulatory bodies in the US in recent months, who believe the company has been intentionally targeting sales to teens. In January 2019 CNBC reports on the “epidemic” and sites Juul as a significant culprit while the article goes on to say how the “FDA is exploring ways to help wean teenagers off nicotine”.

In early 2018 the New Yorker reported: In April, eleven senators, including Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, sent an open letter to Juul Labs … asserting that Juul’s products are “putting an entire new generation of children at risk of nicotine addiction and other health consequences.”  Adding: Jonathan Winickoff, the former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, which is trying to end youth smoking, told me in March. “Juul is already a massive public-health disaster—and without dramatic action it’s going to get much, much, much worse.

The issue of Juul knowingly selling and marketing to underage consumers continues to plague both Altria and Juul. As recently as March 2021 fraud claims surrounding this issue continued in US courts. Added to this, in April 2021 the Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaints case against both companies for violation of antitrust laws.

The UK version of the JUUL is subject to the UK TPD which has severely restricted the JUUL’s marketability. The UK JUUL does not have anything like the nicotine level contained in the USA version (the USA Juul at 59 mg/ml contains almost 300% more nicotine than the UK version at 20 mg/ml) so is unlikely to appeal to kids looking for a “hit”, or those serious about using vape devices in order to stop smoking.

JUUL: A Deep Dive Into The US’s Popular E-Cigarette

Lately, there’s been plenty of back-and-forth conjecture about nicotine vaporizers in the press and amongst the public. If there’s a current poster child for the controversies surrounding vaping, though, it’s JUUL. The name alone is enough to set off a contentious debate between legislators, parents, vaping enthusiasts and those who view vaping as the next burgeoning health crisis.

Regardless of the side of the debate you’re on, the JUUL is without a doubt one of the most popular vaping options in the United States. In just a few short years, it has come to be a major player in the American e-cigarette market. It’s easy to see why. Offering non-smoking youngsters, a “nicotine high” and current smokers a higher nicotine delivery system than smoking a cigarette. This would make it an extremely saleable commodity, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Extreme nicotine levels in the USA version

First and foremost, it packs a huge amount of nicotine (USA only) – the JUUL is also a sleek, modern device that resembles a USB flash drive – and that’s part of why it has become so controversial in recent months. There are many that claim the small USB like design coupled with the high nicotine levels make it a target for teens. The high nicotine addiction becomes a problem to the new dependent user but JUUL’s sales increase. Of course Juul denies the allegations about marketing to the youth but the FDA disagree and are investigating. The recent FDA paper, ‘Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new enforcement actions and a Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to stop youth use of, and access to, JUUL…’ names only the Juul brand and is self-explanatory.

What’s missing amidst the uproar, however, is an objective look at the product itself. To cut through some of the confusion surrounding JUUL, here’s an impartial look at the device itself, including its positive attributes and potential drawbacks. Let’s dive right in.

What is a JUUL?

At its core, the JUUL device is a very small nicotine vaporizer that relies on a closed, non-refillable cartridge system and a heating system designed to aerosolize (vaporize) the content of the cartridges with minimal combustion. Its size limits its usable battery capacity to 200 mAh which for most vapers translates to a few hours of vaping. It is 1 cm longer and around 3 times as wide as a traditional cigarette, with a lightweight design.

Juul Kit Content

  • Rechargeable JUUL device
  • USB Charger
  • Four JUULpods (Mango Nectar, Royal Creme, Golden Tobacco, and Glacier Mint)
  • Price: £29.99

See the Juul and similar vape pod kits

The device itself draws power from a lithium-ion polymer battery, which holds a charge enough for approximately 100 puffs (as tested) depending on the user (JUUL claim 200 puffs). Users can recharge the device using the supplied USB dock in any standard USB port on a computer or wall charger (if the port allows for an upright charging position). The battery is not user-replaceable, and JUUL provides no guidance on expected battery life. It’s worth noting that similar types of lithium-ion polymer batteries will typically survive between 300 and 500 complete charge cycles before beginning to show evidence of lost capacity or failure to hold a charge.

The cartridges that work with the JUUL device are known as JUUL pods, and they are arguably the most important (and in the USA controversial) part of the JUUL system. Each JUULpod is roughly equivalent to 10 cigarettes although JUUL optimistically states 20 traditional cigarettes, and they are available in the UK which only has one tobacco and three flavours:

JUULpod Strength

• Juul USA Pods: 59 mg/ml
Juul UK Pods: 20 mg/ml

JUULpod Flavours (UK)

• Mango Nectar
• Glacier Mint
• Golden Tobacco
• Royal Creme

The Pros of JUUL

The JUUL device has a few things going for it on the positive side of the ledger. Although many argue its popularity stems solely from its excessive nicotine content, the first and most obvious positive attribute of the JUUL is its simplicity. Juul has followed in the steps of the older e cigarettes regarding keeping things simple. The sleek, simplistic design makes it easy for anyone to adapt to with little difficulty. That’s not an accident, either. JUUL’s inventors, former smokers themselves, built the whole device around replicating the simplicity of traditional cigarettes. With a JUUL, you insert a JUUL pod and you’re ready to go – provided you’ve remembered to charge the unit beforehand.

The simplicity doesn’t end there, of course. The JUUL has no physical buttons, eschewing them in favour of a single multipurpose LED that indicates both the charge state of the device as well as pull-strength when the device is in use. The only removable part of the unit is the JUULpods, which are sealed and eliminate the possibility of error compared to refillable nicotine vaporizers. That’s a plus for novice users that don’t have experience with more complex and customizable vape mods. To be fair, there are similar sized and more powerful “cigarette like” options available many with double the battery capacity.

This concept is not new as the clear majority of small scale closed system e cigarettes follow a very simple design. A point here is that some competitors have retained the cigarette shape to ease the transition from smoking to vaping, to replace the psychological factors involved with smoking. These factors include the rituals associated with smoking cigarettes including the shape, feel and size. While the JUUL is relatively small, the square shape simply lacks the shape and feel of a cigarette. See our blog, The Psychological Side if you want to know more.

Last, but not least, in the UK the four available JUULpod flavour varieties contain quality nicotine salt-based e-liquids with a good flavour balance and faithful taste profile replication. The UK version however comes in with one nicotine strength at 1.7 % by weight and only three flavours and one tobacco flavour. If you don’t like their tobacco taste, then you can’t use any alternative e-liquid as the pods are sealed.

The Cons of JUUL

JUUL has positive traits, but it is far from perfect. Oddly, one of its biggest strengths also doubles as one of its greatest weaknesses. The JUULpods, while well regarded by some, are also a target of plenty of criticism and controversy. To begin with, in the USA they’re currently only available in a single high nicotine strength. That means that they’re not particularly well suited to individuals trying to wean themselves off traditional cigarettes. Critics contend that this isn’t a bug, but coupled with the high strength nicotine content, a feature intended to keep JUUL’s users addicted to the product.

The uproar about JUULpods doesn’t end there, either. The company has been facing growing scrutiny from the likes of the media, the FDA and other regulatory bodies in the US in recent months, who believe the company has been intentionally targeting sales to teens. The issue centres around the fact that JUULpods contain a nicotine concentration that is more than triple that found in other, similar vaping products in the UK. The high concentration of nicotine found in JUULpods is believed by some to be the primary reason that the JUUL has become so popular, so quickly among teenagers, who are developmentally more susceptible to nicotine addiction.

Critics have also found fault with the marketing of JUUL products, which they claim don’t make it clear that JUUL is a nicotine delivery system. A recent study indicated that as many as 63% of individuals aged 15-24 that reported using JUUL weren’t aware that all JUULpods contained nicotine. That confusion raises the possibility that JUUL users may unintentionally become nicotine-addicted by using the product. In fact, some users have already started to sue JUUL Labs, the maker of JUUL, claiming that the product was deceptively marketed to appear safe when it carried the real risk of causing nicotine addiction. For their part, JUUL Labs has (conveniently?) responded to the complaints by announcing that they will soon be manufacturing a lower-nicotine version of some of their most popular JUULpods.

The UK version of the Juul

The much lower-nicotine UK version will no doubt significantly and adversely reduce demand. Without the huge nicotine levels, the JUUL with its small capacity battery simply reverts to being a “designer vape pen” with limited use for serious vapers. Vapers require a reliable all-day vape device to stay away from smoking. If “designer” is what you want, then there are a lot more powerful pod vape devices now that look almost identical to the Juul, but with the advantage of a battery that will last all day. The new Voom for example has almost double the battery capacity, looks and feels better than the Juul and Voom vape reviews show that it is simply a better device for serious vapers. Voom pods have a larger capacity and work out a lot cheaper than the Juul pods when you work out the actual cost per ml.

Aside from the nicotine controversy, the other notable downsides to the JUUL is its limited availability outside of the US market, and the relative difficulty that users (outside of major cities) have when trying to locate JUULpods for sale at local outlets. That means that travellers must be sure to order refills for the JUUL with sufficient foresight to keep themselves from running out in the middle of a trip.

Apart from the major criticisms other cons include: The pod units are sealed and so do not allow other e liquid brands to be used. JUUL users are limited to one strength and one tobacco flavour. You cant replace the battery, you will need to buy a new device complete.

In reality you would need two or three JUUL devices to ensure you have an all-day vape.

See the Juul and slim vape pod kits

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, JUUL is a well-manufactured, reliable nicotine vaporizer that is a good combination of both style and substance. It is not however suitable for the dedicated vaper as it cannot offer the user an all-day vape. Like most of the good quality vape brands, for the duration of the battery charge it provides a consistent, reasonably enjoyable experience for casual or social smokers looking to move to vaping. Unlike some of the better vape brands the JUUL battery is limited.

In that capacity, the UK JUUL version is, at worst, a healthier alternative for casual smokers that are trying to kick the habit, but the lack of varied nicotine options make it of dubious value as a cessation aid. The current USA version of the JUUL with extreme nicotine and alleged youth targeting is, at worst, a lot more worrying!

Of course, JUUL’s announcement regarding the coming availability of lower-nicotine JUULpod options is an encouraging sign that might go a long way to solving what is, for now, the biggest drawback of the JUUL product. The added regulatory scrutiny that has thus far attended the controversy surrounding JUUL does, of course, raise the possibility that the company will be forced to make changes to their product in the near future, which is anathema to some users. Note, these changes would appear to be forced upon the brand because of the adverse publicity surrounding its antics and not part of a planned expansion programme for the purpose of making profit. Bad PR is not good.

But for the UK market at least, a JUUL without high nicotine is simply a low powered good looking vape pen.

The bottom line is that because of its high addictive qualities, in the USA, JUUL is a singular product in the nicotine vaporizer market that has been extremely successful. By law in the UK it cannot have this (USA legal but morally dubious) “advantage”, it is just another small scale vape pod device.

JUUL: Duelling with the competition

Some very similar looking vape pens have 1000+ mAh power packs and will last all day and all night, easily overshadowing the JUUL at 200 mAh.

Updated: 2021-04-04