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How Juul made nicotine go viral

Juul tried to design a solution to a public health problem. It wound up creating another one.

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

Juul, the USB drive–shaped e-cigarette gaining popularity among American youth, is a potent nicotine delivery device. But on the outside, it really doesn’t look like one.

Instead, it looks like a tech gadget. It’s discreet, intuitive, and comes in brightly colored flavors that mirror “collect them all” designs in kids’ products. And while those features might have been designed to provide a compelling alternative for2 adult smokers, they’ve wound up attracting young users in droves.

In the process, kids are getting hooked on a powerful nicotine product, like a fidget spinner that you can become chemically attached to. Teen smoking has been on the decline for decades, but e-cigarette use is now climbing, and it might be a pathway to using traditional cigarettes. The Juul’s design has been revolutionary for e-cigarettes — but its full impact on public health is yet to be seen.

Watch the video above to learn about Juul’s product design and what it means for public health. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to view all of our latest videos.