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The rise of disposable JUUL-type e-cigarette devices
  1. Rebecca Williams1,2
  1. 1 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2 Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca Williams, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; rebeccawilliams{at}

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For the first few years of the vaping epidemic, to draw in smokers, the tobacco industry provided disposable ‘try it and throw it out’ cigalike electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), potentially driven by desire to convince people to try a new product that looked similar to cigarettes with a low initial cost—about the same as (or less than) a pack of cigarettes1; much less than a typical reusable e-cigarette starter kit. As vaping became more widespread and normative and users moved into larger tank and mod style e-cigarettes,2 there was less need to persuade people to try e-cigarettes with a disposable product. Moreover, their availability from online vendors became more scarce and expensive, with the proportion of online vendors selling disposable e-cigarettes dropping from 55.2% in 20131 to 23.6% in 2016 (Williams R. Internet Tobacco Vendors Study, Unpublished Data, 2016), with only 6 of the 98 most popular online vendors selling disposable e-cigarettes in our 2014 purchase study.3 With this shift, vendors often grouped disposables in multipacks or priced them higher than starter kits in an apparent effort to start people with refillable instead of disposable products, encouraging them towards habitual use.

As the industry moved away from disposable cigalike products, JUUL entered the market in 2015 and, within 3 years, secured a 75% e-cigarette market share.4 Its broad popularity led to an abundance of small and large brand JUUL-like devices trying to capitalise on JUUL’s popularity, and now, a resurgence of disposable products, this time modelled after JUUL and referred to by sellers as ‘Disposable Pod Devices’ (referring to the pod style e-liquid containers that started with JUUL, and now, are found in a wide array of JUUL-like devices).

These products (figure 1) are easily found online with a simple Google search, returning 31 brands of products within the first results page, priced as low as US$4.60 with up to 7% nicotine (a higher concentration than JUUL) and advertising 200 puffs. This makes them substantially cheaper than JUUL pod refill 4-pack and certainly a cheaper means for trying JUUL-like devices than buying a full starter kit (which costs US$49.99 from, and may be difficult for some youth to afford to try out). Furthermore, age verification practices of these devices’ sellers are questionable, with some relying on unenforceable statements that by buying the products you are certifying that you are over 18 years of age.

Figure 1

Example of several brands of ‘Disposable Pod Devices’, those look much like JUUL.

These disposable products may surge in popularity with minors and prompt users of all ages to try and become addicted to vaping when they might not have tried it otherwise due to the cost of entry. Moving forward, it is critical to carefully observe how these disposable products are marketed and to whom, and how rigorous sellers are about preventing youth access. Doing so is key to restricting these vendors’ access to new users who may become addicted to vaping, which may lead to smoking.5 6 Future regulatory and enforcement efforts should pay special attention to these products, which may have even more youth appeal than JUUL, due to their low cost.



  • Contributors RW wrote this Industry Watch paper in full and takes responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the information presented.

  • Funding This work was funded by a grant 5R01CA169189 from the National Cancer Institute.

  • Disclaimer The National Cancer Institute had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript; nor decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests No, there are no competing interests.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.