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Young adult perceptions of JUUL and other pod electronic cigarette devices in California: a qualitative study

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Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) which utilise prefilled 'pods' (pod devices) entered the US market in 2015. One brand, JUUL, captured more than half the e-cigarette market in early 2018, and the US Food and Drug Administration recently warned its manufacturer about adolescent uptake. This is the first qualitative study to describe distinct features of pod devices that appear to contribute to their popularity among young people.


Qualitative interview study of young adults who had used pod devices. Participants were recruited from Facebook, other social media, street recruitment and via snowball sampling.


Participants were from California, with most from the San Francisco Bay Area.


Young adults (aged 18-29 years) using multiple tobacco products (cigarettes, e-cigarettes and/or smokeless tobacco) were recruited. Of the sample of 60 participants, 24 were included in this analysis: 10 who reported experience with pod devices and 14 who used other non-pod e-cigarette devices.


Ten participants had used a pod device in the past year. Of the pod device users, seven still used a pod device at the time of the interview and five did so daily. Nearly all (n=9) pod device users smoked cigarettes in the past month; none were daily smokers. The 14 participants who used non-pod devices provided a point of comparison. Participants highlighted some distinct aspects of pod devices that facilitated use, including their aesthetic similarity to personal electronics, high levels of nicotine delivery with distinct psychoactive effects, more discreet and shorter duration use sessions, and greater social acceptability than more ostentatious non-pod e-cigarettes.


Pod devices' unique characteristics likely encourage pod device uptake among young people. Limitations on advertising in youth channels, flavours and distribution, and education about nicotine addiction may decrease initiation among young people and non-smokers.

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