Juul says it’s only here to help

E-cigarette maker ad blitz comes as new risks emerge

E-CIGARETTE USE HAS EXPLODED, and whether this is a good thing or not depends very much on the vantage point from which it’s viewed.

Both vantage points were on display this morning on the Boston Globe homepage. A huge ad for Juul appeared, promoting efforts the e-cigarette maker says it’s taking to address “youth usage of our product.” Go to the main Juul website and you learn that the company’s “mission” is to target the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and improve their lives by “eliminating cigarettes.”

That’s a lot of life improvement out there to be done.

Meanwhile, the Globe homepage also featured a news story reporting that researchers at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health have found traces of endotoxin, a microbial agent found on Gram-negative bacteria, in more than a quarter of e-cigarette, single-use cartridges and the liquid used to refill them. Traces of glucan, which is found in the cell walls of most fungi, was in 81 percent of e-cigarette samples.

A statement from the school said the substances are linked to “myriad health problems in humans, including asthma, reduced lung function, and inflammation.”

Something to consider by the scads of people one now sees everywhere drawing deep on vape pens.

The idea behind e-cigarettes is to deliver a jolt of the nicotine that smokers are hooked on without all the cancer risk and other health hazards that come from inhaling combusted tobacco. Juul delivers that nicotine buzz in a way other e-cigarettes don’t, Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at Boston University School of Public Health, told NPR’s “On Point” earlier this month.

While the company says it wants to target adult cigarette smokers, for whom vaping may be the lesser of two evils, Juul use is, in fact, exploding among teenagers. A 2017 study said 11 percent of US 12th graders had vaped nicotine in the previous 30 days. Most students who take up vaping are nonsmokers.

With the long-term effects of e-cigarettes unclear, the New York Times said public health experts are calling today’s young people the “guinea pig generation.”

The new report on contaminated e-cigarettes is not the first to raise health concerns. Vaping liquids include components that form carcinogenic compounds when heated. One study cited by the Times found increased levels of five carcinogenic compounds in the urine of teenagers who vape.

“I’m afraid that we’re going to be hooking a new generation of kids on nicotine, with potentially unknown risks,” Dr. Mark L. Rubinstein, the lead author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told the newspaper.

Juul has been in the news locally because former attorney general Martha Coakley, who took on tobacco companies and e-cigarette makers while in office, recently signed on as a full-time Juul employee in the company’s government affairs division.

While the publicly minded company says it’s working hard now to keep Juul out of the hands of teenagers, presumably once it succeeds at its mission of getting the world’s 1 billion adult smokers to switch to e-cigarettes for a period of time, it will then turn its attention to weaning them off the nicotine-laced products.