Smoking, Vaping, JUULing…  Not Your Traditional Cigarette Anymore

The West Virginia Poison Center Explains the Difference
The Free Press WV

Gone are the days of just telling your kids not to smoke cigarettes. Nicotine, an addictive drug, can now be delivered in forms other than traditional cigarettes or chewing tobacco. New delivery methods include vaping, JUULing, and Heatsticks.  How does this change how parents talk about nicotine use with their children? A lot! Parents now need to explain the ways nicotine can be sold and why these other products are not safe even though they are not cigarettes.

Vaping-Vaping is a slang term for using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors.  Some are designed to look like traditional cigarettes or cigars. Instead of using a flame to light tobacco leaves on fire, nicotine is dissolved in solvents to make liquid nicotine, also known as e-liquid. The liquid nicotine is then vaporized by a heating source, similar to creating steam when water is boiled.  The amount of nicotine in each e-cigarette can be changed to be equal to the amount in a cigarette or the amount can be increased substantially.  Although there is no tar, arsenic, formaldehyde or other toxins found in traditional cigarette smoke, the risk of long term exposure to the metals in the e-cigarettes and the risk from inhaling the solvents and flavoring in e-liquids is still being determined.  Proof that vaping nicotine is less addictive than smoking tobacco is absent.  Proof that vaping helps people quit tobacco is also absent.  Children who start with vaping first can become traditional cigarette users.  The e-liquid is harmful or fatal to children.

JUULing-A JUUL is a small device that looks like a flash drive.  This allows children to hide their use of the product from adults.  A JUUL pod contains liquid nicotine salts.  Compared with freebase nicotine used in e-liquids for e-cigarettes, nicotine salt liquids are chemically altered to allow people to tolerate inhaling larger nicotine doses without throat irritation.  One JUUL pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Heatsticks or HEETS-Heatsticks are a newer product that heats tobacco instead of burning it (like cigarettes) or heating nicotine (like vaping). Heatsticks do not produce smoke.  This is an advantage if people do not want to be seen smoking or vaping, for instance, during class. 

These newer products are attractive to teens and young adults for the following reasons:

  • Targeted marketing
  • Appealing flavors, such as bubblegum or cherry
  • Some are designed to look like products children are allowed to carry (JUUL)
  • Lack of odor
  • Perceived lack of health consequences
  • Some do not produce smoke or vapor
  • Easier to hide using than traditional cigarettes


Unfortunately, these products have not been researched like traditional cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The use of these newer products is still being studied and the health consequences are truly unknown. It is important to talk to teens about the health effects, or the lack of knowledge of health effects, of nicotine and nicotine products.


If someone eats or swallows tobacco or nicotine in any form, call the West Virginia Poison Center at 1.800.222.1222.



About the West Virginia Poison Center:

The West Virginia Poison Center provides comprehensive emergency poison information, prevention and educational resources to West Virginians 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The WVPC is staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians with special training in treatment of poisonings. Located in Charleston, WV, the WVPC is a part of the West Virginia University-Charleston Division.  Toll-free:1.800.222.1222. Website:

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