E-cigarettes, long touted as a healthier way to move off the original cancer sticks, suddenly face an alarming bad rap: mysterious lung diseases; random explosions during use; a link with cancer and heart disease.
At the same time, the devices’ so-called strengths have become weaknesses. Users originally drawn to the cheap hit—you get more nicotine for less cash—now find that it’s not always ideal to be able surreptitiously suck on the sticks wherever you choose, whether in subways or school hallways.
In desperation, as California Healthline reports, users with growing dependence on the devices are now looking to a familiar friend to help them quit: cigarettes.
Bought a juul to quit smoking cigarettes… now I’m smoking cigaretttes to quit the juul #circleoflife
— El Mac (@elmacadelic) August 21, 2019
Isn’t it ironic that to quit juul I bought cigarettes
— TheGreatRatsby (@laurabirkyy) August 23, 2019
What’s also strange is that I used the product to quit smoking cigarettes and am far more addicted to my Juul than I ever was to cigs it sucks
— claire (@heyclaaire) July 21, 2019
i’m smoking cigarettes … to quit my juul .. because i’m scared of dropping dEAD
— itty bitty (@babyveganbitch) September 7, 2019
No one is under any illusions about cigarettes’ relative danger, of course. But the known unknowns (and the still more threatening unknown unknowns) around e-cigarettes have led some vapers to wonder if they may have been better off with the devil they know.
For e-cigarette manufacturers, it’s a slap in the face. Juul specifically markets itself as a way to liberate smokers from old-fashioned smokes—with a view to eventually “reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely.” (The company’s pods come in two strengths, with a weaker 3% nicotine concentration designed for those further along their “switching journey.”)
Big Tobacco is laughing all the way to the bank either way. Traditional cigarette giants have invested heavily in the growing sector, with Marlboro parent company Altria holding a 35% stake in Juul, to the value of nearly $13 billion.
Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief, our free daily newsletter with the world’s most important and interesting news.
More stories from Quartz: