Thursday, June 11, 2015

Juul vs the PAX2

About five months or so ago, I was quite bummed upon learning that Ploom (now PAX Labs) was to sell off its intellectual property rights to Japan Tobacco, for this meant that (at least for now) that I would no longer be able to purchase Ploom's modelTwo pods in the U.S.. It was the modelTwo after all, that enabled me to switch over from smoking to vaping entirely. They were expensive, but they were damn good. I was never a heavy smoker, but I was a stubborn one, well, because I enjoyed it. Nearly two years after parting ways with combustion, the last thing that I wanted to do was to back track into smoking. Lucky for me, I also own a PAX (the original) that I sometimes fill with quality pipe tobacco. For me, there is something about vaping actual tobacco that is ultimately more fulfilling than any e-cigarette that I have ever come across thus far. In addition to having tried many different e-cigarettes and PVs, at least I had that to keep me vaping rather than smoking. Still though, I was going to miss those awesome Ploom pods.

When I learned that the former Ploom (now PAX Labs) had a new e-cigarette in the pipeline I became intrigued. With high expectations I waited with anticipation for June 1st to arrive so that I could find out a bit more about this new e-cigarette that purports to be fundamentally different from other vapor products on the market. My Juul arrived in the mail last Thursday on the the 4th of June, two days after the most recent FDA hearings on vapor products were held. Interesting timing......

So what makes the Juul stand in its own class apart from other 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation e-cigarettes? Is it the hardware itself? Yes, the hardware is different aesthetically in that its looks more like a usb drive than an e-cigarette. Some critics may write is off as just another cigalike, albeit with a different shell. This is no cigalike. The only common trait that the Juul shares with your corner store bought cigalike is its size and pre-filled clearomizers, er, I mean pods. The juice is truly what makes Juul special.

So what is so unique about Juul juice?

From the Juul website:

Unlike other vapor products, JUUL is the only system that uses the nicotine salts found in leaf tobacco - the natural state of nicotine - rather than free-base nicotine. This makes a huge difference in how nicotine is absorbed by the body, which is crucial for a satisfying vapor experience.

Without nicotine salts, average vapor products (like e-cigarettes) can only accommodate about half of JUUL’s nicotine strength - much less than what’s in your average cigarette. For us smokers, this leaves something to be desired.

JUUL’s nicotine salts allow you to quickly vaporize an amount of nicotine that is closer to what you’d normally receive from a cigarette - 1-2mg of nicotine per 10 puffs.

One may, depending on their own view on what constitutes harm reduction, either love or hate the idea of manipulating e-juice to deliver nicotine more like that of an analog cigarette. No one can argue, however, that the Juul does not indeed stand in a class of its own amongst its peers. Personally, I have no moral qualms about saying that I believe this to be a great idea, especially if it gets more smokers (ie., the ones who don't want to "quit", but would like to quit the bad constituents generated from combustion) to switch over to vaping entirely. Yes, there are health conscious smokers. Some of them even drink wheatgrass on occasion, but back to the point at hand: more innovation = less damage done by the "act" of smoking. It is not the act of smoking that kills so many people after all, it is the smoke.


  • 2X nicotine strength and 3X vapor quantity of leading vapor products-
  • Liquid-to-wick system ensures thick, consistent, flavorful vapor-
  • Easy to use - no buttons or switches, simply insert pod into device and draw-
  • Sophisticated temperature control and smart battery life light indicator-

So is what PAX labs says true, or is it a bunch of hooey marketing that is devoid of any real substance?

From my personal experience over the course of the last week, I would have to say that the claims made by PAX Labs are not merely marketing hyperbole. Juul delivers nicotine at a quicker rate as promised. It is thus, more like a true analog cigarette with regards to the rate of delivery.

What is interesting for me is that I don't inhale (I haven't inhaled ever since I started vaping with the modelTwo and the PAX almost two years ago) and the Juul appears to be working quite well for me, despite the fact that the Juul is obviously designed for the smoker that inhales.

It is closer to a cigarette in that it is less alkaline. Cigarette smokers may appreciate this option in an e-cigarette, and I suppose that is the point. Nevertheless, it worked so well for me on one recent morning that I found that there was a bit more of a spring in my step, and a bit earlier (I'm a slow riser) than what is normal for me. In other words, I got that nicotine kick. I had the same experience today and what is interesting is that now some 6 hours later, I feel no real drastic drop off or mid-day lull making me want to "compulsively" "smoke" more. So at least for me, there goes the notion that nicotine coupled with benzoic acid makes one want to vape more.

According to numerous studies on smoking with regards to technique, most smokers tend to self-titrate according to individual needs. This is the main theory on why "light" (ie., low nic/low tar) cigarettes are no better than a full strength cigarette when it comes to risk. Everyone is different. Depending on the inhale, the Juul can accommodate the lightest to heaviest smoker without any increase in tar because there is no tar. Proponents of health should be rejoicing!

What about the flavor(s)? Juul pods come in four different flavors:

Juul Pods

  • fruut
  • tabaac
  • miint
  • bruulé

As a tobacco person I'm a tough sell. I liked all of the flavors at first, but not as much I had anticipated. That was at first impression. Realizing that the Juul is meant to be more like a cigarette, and it is, I decided to change my draw technique by partially covering the two air holes that are placed one on each side of the pod. The improvement in flavor was dramatic. That is what ultimately sold me on the Juul. In essence I found that less airflow brought out more flavor, which is good for me since I no longer inhale. When I tried that very same technique on an attempt to inhale it was too much. Leaving the air-holes uncovered produces an airier draw which creates an experience that is closer to that of a real cigarette. The individual smoker can decide on what works best for them. I don't know if that is what Juul's designers had intended, but it is brilliant in the sense that it really does offer something for every type of smoker. So far, I tend to go back and forth between the tabaac and the bruulé (my fav) the most, though the fruut is also quite good. For those menthol lovers out there I would think that the miint harbors the potential to be a hit.

Another thing that I really like about the Juul is its size. I like the fact that I can switch out flavors on the go without having to sacrifice flavor and without having to carry around a bunch of extra gear around when I'm out and about. Apart from curiosity, one of the reasons that I bought a sub-ohm mod not too long ago was to see if I could find a vape that could compete with the modelTwo pods flavor-wise. While not the same as vaping real tobacco for me, I did find that the more powerful units tend to deliver flavor a bit better. For those who vape high-end mods for the flavor, rather than for the massive clouds, Juul may be a workable solution when on the go.

Though I still harbor a great enthusiasm for the potential of vaping real tobacco, I feel that this is yet one more step closer to the real thing. It is also why it is of paramount importance to urge the FDA to change the grandfather date on new and novel vapor products in addition to supporting our friends overseas should there be any hope of amending the EU's TPD. How can we realize the true potential of THR if innovation itself is banned de facto or otherwiese? The whole idea of THR is to develop low risk products that are attractive to smokers. That means that it is important to embrace new and novel vapor products such as the Juul.

PAX Labs has also released an upgraded version of its original dry leaf vaporizer the PAX quite appropriately called the PAX2.

I finally got around to purchasing a PAX2 a little over a month ago. Much like my experience with the Juul, I soon found out that finding your personal sweet spot is contingent largely upon the draw and the airflow. Packing it for the ultimate flavorable experience also depends on the type of tobacco used. Tobacco with a higher moisture content tends to taste better with less tobacco (a pinch) in the oven, whereas drier tobaccos can be packed in a bit more firmly without any obstruction to airflow. I attribute this to the improved functionality of the oven that is both deeper and more efficient at extracting constituents from the tobacco leaf as compared to the original PAX. What this translates into for me is that overall, less pipe tobacco = more flavor.

When I first received my PAX2 I was packing it firmly to the top. The result was little to no vapor or flavor. That's when I realized that what may be true for drier blends may not be true for many aromatic blends. I did try a drier pipe blend and that worked quite well when packed full, but the flavor on the aromatic when packed with less tobacco was just about as good as a modelTwo pod. Just a pinch is my new motto for the PAX2. That simple change in technique made all of the difference for me. This is now my go to vape at dinner time (apart from the modelTwo pods that I have left), when I'm enjoying a glass of red wine, or when I'm craving that true tobacco experience. The flavor that comes through with my hazelnut and MV1000 blend(s) is simply amazing! I did try stuffing some cigarette tobacco into the oven, and well, meh....not so tasty.

Here is a bit more info on the new PAX2:


  • Hassle-free cleaning and fewer maintenance requirements mean more time enjoying and less time with upkeep.
  • Narrower and deeper oven maximizes surface area, providing more draws per session and efficient use of oven contents.
  • Simple. No moving parts - and device includes two interchangeable, silicone mouthpieces for easy cleaning. No lubricant needed!
  • Lip Sensing technology that improves vapor production and ensures consistent plant matter temperatures.
  • Improved ease of charging through magnetic USB cradle; charge your PAX on the go!

  • 10 year warranty.

Four Heat Settings

  • 360F
  • 380F
  • 400F
  • 420F

My favorite temperature settings are 360F and 380F, settings one and two respectively. This is where the flavor comes out the most in my opinion. But again, it's all really comes down to personal preference.

There are also four colors to choose from. I chose the Flare of course!

The PAX2 comes with both a flat mouthpiece and a raised mouthpiece, both are an improvement upon the retractable mouthpiece that was designed for the original PAX. No longer is there the risk of that retractable mouthpiece flying out unexpectedly into a dark corner of a barroom or music venue floor somewhere. I've had that happen to me with the original, and it can be a frustrating experience trying to search around on a dark concert venue floor with the light provided by your cell phone.

Both the original and the PAX2 go into standby mode if you just leave it sitting idle for a bit, which preserves your tobacco for a longer and more relaxing vape.

At $280, the PAX2 dos not come cheap, but given its superior technology, portability, and warranty, I feel that it is an investment that is well worth it in the long run, especially if your goal is to switch away, not towards, smoking.

The dual user of the future...

Truth be told, there really is no PAX2 vs Juul with regards to quality. One is not better than the other, they are merely different. One is geared more towards the cigarette smoker who likes to inhale (though I no longer do) and the other is meant to be puffed on more like a pipe or a cigar without the smoke. One delivers nicotine more like a cigarette and the other delivers a warm and relaxing tobacco vapor for those times when one has the time to sit back, relax, and relish the experience and flavor of real tobacco in an un-hurried and relaxed environment. The PAX is also quite stealthy in the sense that it does not generate massive clouds. You can sit next to the most ardent anti-smoker and they'd be hard pressed to even notice that you were vaping. It is a neighborly vape.

PAX labs has made a "dual user" out of me, but not a dual user as currently defined in some circles. I am a dual user of vapor products. I would still be smoking if not for the release of the modelTwo a couple of years ago. I have since completely moved away from combustion without the want or need to go back, and although I am going to miss those modelTwo pods, I do believe that between the Juul and the PAX2, I have what I need to stay the course. I do believe that with every new THR development and discovery comes the potential to change our perceptions on what constitutes "dual use" in the not too distant future. I am proof of that.

PAX labs delivers as promised.

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