cover image Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul

Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul

Jamie Ducharme. Holt, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-77753-9

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)