By Chris Mellides
Photo courtesy of PAX Labs, Inc.
Founded by two Stanford Design Program graduates in 2007, PAX Labs, formerly known as Ploom Inc., entered the e-cigarette market in June with what it claims to be the truest product alternative to combustible tobacco in the arenas of user satisfaction and general ease of use.
The device is called JUUL, and when I first heard the product claims, I quickly erred on the side of skepticism. After all, the size, weight and nicotine cartridge delivery system is something we’ve all seen before.
Whether it be an off brand gas station cigalike or a bigger name like Blu eCigs, most intermediate to advanced vapers can agree that this type of device is easily dwarfed by the plethora of products flooding the industry that can not only do the job of a cigalike, but out perform it across the board.
Having said that, the JUUL e-cig is definitely a product that surprised me. For one, this rechargeable device lasts longer on average then any other cigalike I’ve ever used. In my experience, it’s held its charge for about four or five hours of moderate usage, and when the high discharge battery runs low, charge time is twice as fast as other devices in its class.
Combine that with a sleek and minimalistic design offering an unobtrusive indicator light that goes from green, to yellow to red to communicate battery life percentage, and you’ve got a product that can easily appeal to beginners.
Performance is nice and the device’s automatic switch is very responsive. You just take a drag without the need for pushing buttons, and JUUL does the rest.
Obviously, you won’t be getting tons of vapor as this little mod clearly is not meant for cloud chasing. However, the vape is satisfying, allowing you to do those mouth-to-lung hits that all smokers are familiar with. Also, despite its boxy shape, the device is incredibly comfortable to hold and has the feel of a traditional cigarette with a more refined look.
As far as flavors are concerned, users are limited to four at the moment. They are: tabaac, miint, bruulé and fruut. They all have a high nicotine content, which I would guess is around 18 mg, that you cannot customize, and the cartridges are non-refillable, which is a bummer.
My favorite of the bunch is the miint, which gives a cooling sensation with every drag and leaves a refreshing aftertaste, akin to a light menthol. The fruut was also a nice flavor with a flavor profile that can closely be compared to a mixed berry vape.
However, I did not care for the tabaac or the bruulé. They both tasted very similar, and I simply did not find their flavor agreeable. Of course, if you’re fresh off of combustible tobacco, you may find these flavor pods to be more to your liking.
The cartridges are easy enough to install. You just remove the protective sheath and press the cartridge into the top end of the device until you hear an audible click. Follow that up by taking a soft pull for three to five seconds on the newly installed cartridge to enhance wicking, and you’re good to go and free to vape normally from that point onward.
The JUUL pod nicotine cartridges have yet to leak on me, but I have found that if you take a hard enough pull on the inhale, you do get a bit of juice in your mouth. Harder, prolonged drags may also lead to flooding, though I have not confirmed this.
A feature I wish worked better is the option to double tap the device near its LED to read your battery life via the colored lights. A lot of times, this process simply does not work and it can be very frustrating.
Overall, you could do much worse for an entry level device. While perfect for beginners, I’ve found that stowing it in my pocket as a backup, or simply using it when I’m on the road, are qualities that can make JUUL appealing to more advanced vapers like myself who are looking for something compact, discreet and highly portable.
The JUUL starter kit, which includes a device, four JUUL pods— each containing a different e-liquid flavor—and a USB charger will run you $49.99. Additionally, each JUUL pod four-pack retails for $15.99. This could get pricey depending on your e-liquid consumption, but JUUL is a closed-ended system, so you will need to buy these cartridges from JUUL or an authorized reseller when you’re running out.
The JUUL is currently available at select stores nationwide and can be purchased online at JUULvapor.com.
Chris Mellides began vaping in 2012 and witnessed the rise and fall of the cartomizer tank firsthand. A multimedia journalist, he has contributed to various local and national publications and has worked for WSHU Public Radio. Mellides takes an honest approach to reviewing the latest vaping hardware, separating the diamonds from the rough and suggesting where your money might be better spent. He works weekends at one of the first vape shops to launch on Long Island and lives in a fortified compound near Queens, N.Y.