Juul - Devices and Pods

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Sarah Kern
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E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular as millions of Americans use these small devices to combat cigarette addiction. Juul is one of the most popular vape products available today. Juuls were created to help tobacco users transition from their cigarette addiction to an electronic tobacco product in an attempt to divert them from using cigarettes. However, Juul is extremely addictive, causing many people to use the device and gain a nicotine addiction rather than lose one. They are also horrible for the environment throughout the production process. Juul has failed to acknowledge the negative impacts on human and environmental health on their website, and this transparency is deeply concerning. For $10 per battery and $20 per pack of pods, these Juuls are readily accessible to those who are willing to spend the money, even those who are legally too young to buy them from the store. Juul’s addictive nature keeps users coming back to buy more and more pods, creating a hypothetical hole in their wallets. Read more to learn about why the Juul is not very cool.

What it's made of:


The Juul itself is made of a lithium-ion battery with a rectangular aluminum shell on the outside. Lithium takes hundreds of thousands of gallons to mine and in the process, it contaminates the air, waterways, and soil surrounding the mine. These mines are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities, exposing them to harmful toxins in their air and water sources. The aluminum in the Juul casing requires tons of energy to mine and also pollutes the air, water, and soil in the areas around the mines. Similarly, these mines are found in areas that are negatively impacting the communities and environment. While Juul intends on their battery being reusable, it is often lost or disposed of, further polluting the environment. If the battery is not disposed of properly, it can continue to pollute the soil and water. There is no recycling program for Juul batteries at this time, but I believe that it would be much better for the environment if the company was able to collect lithium-ion batteries and reuse as many materials as possible. The disposable Juul pods are mostly made up of plastic and stainless steel. Plastic and steel are both processed by melting together materials and metals, which requires tons of thermal energy. Since they are meant to be disposable, often ending up in landfills, the production process is constantly releasing this heat into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the pods are not designed to be reusable like other vape brands, which is disappointing to see. The juice inside of the pods is made from crushed tobacco mixed with vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol. Tobacco production requires tons of water and land (deforestation) and ultimately pollutes the air and water systems. Essentially every ingredient in this mechanism pollutes the very resources that we depend on for survival. While Juul promotes a life away from harmful tobacco usage, it surely requires a lot of physical and environmental harm to produce.

How it's made:


According to the Juul website, their products are designed in San Francisco, California. However, the actual products are manufactured “domestically and internationally under the supervision of (their) talented engineering team”. There is no other information about the manufacturing process on the website, so I had to turn to the internet to learn some more. Although Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source, I could only find more information there, where it stated that Juul batteries were produced in Shenzhen, China, as of 2018. The Juul pods, on the other hand, were made in the United States, although it was not specified where exactly. The lack of transparency about the production of Juuls is concerning, and Juul should provide more information on their website about the manufacturing process. To create the battery and pods, I know that the plastics, aluminum, lithium, and stainless steel must be processed and heated up, which certainly emits greenhouse gases and thermal heat into the atmosphere. This is horrible for the environment, and due to the lack of information about Juul’s specific processes, it can be inferred that there are suspicious and harmful practices occurring at these factories. For a device so small, the Juul packaging is extremely wasteful. Each individual Juul pod is wrapped in plastic, and the slim devices are sold in paper boxes that are unnecessarily large. There is too much room in their packaging... hopefully enough room for improvement.

Who makes it:


Juul is marketed as a solution for adult cigarette smokers who are hoping to transition away from tobacco usage; they promote it as a good thing. However, Juul is a recently released product, so there is no research to support this claim and none regarding the long-term effects of the product on its users. It has certainly helped some users transition away from cigarettes but has also introduced many people, especially teenagers, to the world of nicotine. The creators of this product have provided a page on their website about age verification so that underage people cannot access their product. In my experience, my classmates in high school were addicted to this product and able to access it quite easily before they ever laid hands on a cigarette, leading me to believe that the Juul is actually a gateway towards tobacco rather than away from it. And with a lack of research regarding the implications of using this product, it is clear that the creators are focused on making money from this “solution” than considering if this is actually a solution at all.
Juul’s transparency act is required to be on the website, but there is only vague information about their auditing process. They “may” use third-party audits and conduct self-audits on “certain” suppliers to ensure that their supply chain is ethical. They also make sure that they source from suppliers who sign a contract saying that they will not use slavery or child labor… but signing on the dotted line is very different from actually upholding those standards, especially in mines where malpractice is common. Where is the real transparency, Juul? We want to know who and where your materials are sourced from. Furthermore, some of the materials of the Juul include plastic, lithium, and aluminum. These are three of the most harmful materials to source from the environment, and Juul has no statement on their website about sustainability. The disposable design of plastic pods and the use of environmentally damaging materials is evidence of their disregard for the health of the planet.