Big vape The incendiary rise of Juul

Jamie Ducharme

Book - 2021

"A work of narrative nonfiction chronicling the rise of Juul, the most prominent e-cigarette company, and the birth of a new addiction"--

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New York, New York : Henry Holt and Company 2021.
Main Author
Jamie Ducharme (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xiv, 318 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • Author's Note
  • Prologue
  • Part I. The Spark
  • 1. Smoke Without Fire (2004-2005)
  • 2. An Industry Is Born (2007-2011)
  • 3. Reinforcements (2011-2013)
  • 4. Buzzed (2014)
  • 5. The Cool Kid (November 2014-May 2015)
  • Part II. Catching Flame
  • 6. Vaporized (Summer 2015)
  • 7. Demoted (July-December 2015)
  • 8. Ignition (August 2016-May 2017)
  • 9. The Divorce (May-November 2017)
  • 10. The Boss (November 2017-March 2018)
  • 11. An Education (January-July 2018)
  • 12. Political Animals (April-August 2018)
  • 13. Growing Pains (July-August 2018)
  • 14. An Epidemic (September-December 2018)
  • Part III. Up in Smoke
  • 15. Serious Fortunes (December 2018-March 2019)
  • 16. The Apology Campaign (March-July 2019)
  • 17. On Trial (July 2019)
  • 18. Plague and Panic (July-September 2019)
  • 19. Illicit Products (June-September 2019)
  • 20. Wake Me Up When September Ends (September 2019)
  • 21. The Takeover (September 2019-March 2020)
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

TIME magazine staff writer Ducharme tackles the rise and fall of the e-cigarette revolution. She starts with the story of two grad students at Stanford who wanted to create a new nicotine experience to help them quit smoking, and from that, Juul was born. Readers will head into the chronicles of Juul history, outlined by sections including The Spark, Catching Flame, and Up in Smoke. Ducharme touches on the genius of the invention, its troubled history with U.S. regulations, and the downfall of the giant due to competition and tales of health woes from users. In addition, she notes that things could have been different if Juul had not been marketed as "an object of desire rather than as a potentially lifesaving public health intervention." Her well-researched account is easy to read, and features information based on interviews with advisors, insiders, Juul employees, doctors, investors, and more. This book will appeal to most audiences and especially to teens. It also could be a cautionary tale for innovators looking to market the next big thing.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Ducharme charts the meteoric rise, subsequent missteps, and resulting misfortunes of e-cigarette company Juul in her brisk and thorough debut. Juul started as a graduate design project in 2005 by cofounders James Monsees and Adam Bowen; their aim was "to change what it meant to consume nicotine." It quickly exploded into a multibillion dollar start-up with the launch of the small, sleek Juul e-cigarette. Ducharme describes questionable company decisions: employees conducted "buzz-testing" by vaping different concoctions in order to find the most potent and addictive nicotine solution, and a social media campaign mimicked decades-old cigarette company tactics when it aimed to " 'own the early adopter'/'cool kid' equity" and may have led teenagers to use the product. When it became apparent that tens of thousands of teenagers were, in fact, using Juul, the company continued to borrow from the Big Tobacco playbook by creating a health curriculum for schools. Its reputation was further damaged by the appearance of a mysterious lung ailment related to vaping that sprang up in 2019 (though the cause was determined to not be tied to Juuls). Ducharme presents an evenhanded retelling of the company's scandals up to the point, in 2020, when Monsees and Bowen left. Fast-paced and impressively researched, this detailed account sings. (June)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Vaping, a new way of smoking, found its way into mainstream culture in the early 21st century. It was initially seen as a way to reduce health risks associated with cigarette smoking; more recently, some disastrous effects have led to more vaping regulations in the U.S., though still far fewer than the regulations applied to cigarettes. Did vaping solve the issue of smoking? This wide-ranging book by health and science journalist Ducharme discusses a particular vaping device, the Juul, from its launch as a grad school design project in 2005, to the present day--including extensive research and testing, and how teenagers were drawn to Juul and how schools responded in turn. The author begins the book with a story line that she follows throughout, making for an interesting read. The narrative is enhanced by Ducharme's accessible writing and her time lines of events in the quick rise and steady fall of Juul. VERDICT Ducharme grabs readers' attention early on. This is not a scientific book, but rather a social examination of the rise of the vaping industry. For fans of Sherri Mabry Gordon's Smoking, Vaping, and Your Health.--Adesh Rampat, Miami

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A deep investigative dive into the electronic cigarette behemoth. In this riveting exposé, Time health and science journalist Ducharme chronicles the history and problematic future of Juul, which quickly rose to prominence after a series of missteps. She profiles friends and former smokers James Monsees and Adam Bowen, who, during a 2005 Stanford product-design program, sought to develop an alternative to traditional tobacco-burning cigarettes. Focusing on harm reduction, they positioned their prototype as a way to "improve the lives of adult smokers" by helping them transition to the supposed safety of vaporizing pens, which heat a liquid but avoid combustion. Piggybacking on lessons from earlier, less-successful vaping devices, Monsees and Bowen, aided by Japanese investors, laid the groundwork for a successful venture--but not without a host of problems that did not go unnoticed by the Food and Drug Administration and would reemerge later to cloud their success. With briskly paced writing, Ducharme details the "buzz-testing" conducted by Juul employees to gauge the addictive potency of the nicotine formulations in the vape pods and how the "cool kids"--friendly product marketing campaign became "the company's religion." As the author writes, "more news stories suggested that Juul had torn a page from the Big Tobacco playbook and purposely hooked teenage customers for profit." By 2015, Juul vaporizers were widespread, and the company started to record significant profits. However, when reports of underage users emerged, Juul dispatched representatives to schools to warn about the dangers of nicotine, "sprinkling in references to how safe Juul was and how it was going to get FDA approval any day now." Juul then partnered with big tobacco corporation Altria, and the emergence of a mysterious pulmonary illness ignited anti-vaping activists and public health watchdogs. In the wake of hundreds of lawsuits set to hit courtrooms in 2022, both Monsees and Bowen have "abandoned ship." Based on dozens of interviews with former employees, investors, doctors, and researchers, this well-rounded journalistic narrative is consistently informative and alarming. Intensive, exemplary reportage on a controversial industry cloaked in scandal. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.