Pet-owners beware: Small size of popular vape units may pose heightened risk

When I first read about Juul, a vape unit the size of a flash drive that’s popular with teenagers (although the company says that’s not their market), I felt sadness for any teens (or pre-teens!) already addicted to nicotine. My second thought was of the possibility of an increased risk to pets, who might find these small devices casually left out where they could find them and chew them up.

That can be deadly, as our partners at the Pet Poison Helpline warn:

Pet Poison Helpline has encountered a sharp uptick in calls concerning cases of nicotine poisoning in pets that ingested e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine refill solution. In fact, over the past six months, cases have more than doubled, indicating that along with their increased popularity, the nicotine-delivering devices are becoming a more significant threat to pets. While dogs account for the majority of cases, nicotine in e-cigarettes and liquid refill solution is toxic to cats as well.

“We’ve handled cases for pets poisoned by eating traditional cigarettes or tobacco products containing nicotine for many years,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “But, as the use of e-cigarettes has become more widespread, our call volume for cases involving them has increased considerably.”

Those calls numbers will surely continue to grow along with the popularity of smaller vaping devices that can easily fall out of a purse or backpack, or be found by an enterprising pet if a bag is casually left open.

So what’s different about these devices? From the Wall Street Journal:

A Juul device fits easily in a pocket and looks nondescript when plugged into a laptop’s USB drive to recharge or sitting on a desk. Teachers say students gather in bathrooms, library carrels and locker rooms to pass Juuls. The minimal vapor and barely there smell makes it harder to detect than some other e-cigarettes.


In the last few years, vaping with e-cigarettes has taken off. In 2017, 18.5% of 8th graders said they had ever vaped, up from 17.5% the previous year. That compared with 9.4% who had ever smoked cigarettes, down from 9.8% the previous year, according to researchers at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Industry analysts say Juul’s rapid rise in the estimated $2 billion e-cigarette category is remarkable. In recent months, Juul has captured close to half of the business, according to a Wells Fargo analysis of Nielsen data. That is a big lead, says Wells Fargo tobacco analyst Bonnie Herzog, placing it ahead of established companies such as Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco PLC, which make their own branded forms.

The article is behind the Journal’s firewall, but if you’re a subscriber, here’s the link.

Parents need to find out if these units are in their homes. While they may be OK with their teens using them — and I would not be, but this blog’s not around parenting — they surely need to set rules around where they are kept to make sure the don’t become dangerous chew toys for family pets. The same goes for any vaping device, by the way!