Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul Review – The e-cig empire that took over the world

By Romey Norton
Published: October 11, 2023 (Last updated: March 12, 2024)
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Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul Review - The e-cig empire that took over the world


Marketers of poison — this mini-series examines the extraordinary epidemic of the E-cigarette.

With over a billion people smoking throughout the world, its popularity has soared more than anyone could have predicted. Netflix’s limited series Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul is all about the electronic cigarette startup that became a multi-billion-dollar company almost overnight, and whose success was undeniable until an epidemic caused it to go up in smoke. 

The mini-series is based on the book Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul by Time health correspondent Jamie Ducharme. It is directed by R.J. Cutler (Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry and Belushi) and is in four parts, all of which take you through the little e-cig becoming a global powerhouse, in the hands of every youth and adult as a stress reliever and cigarette alternative, to its obvious dramatic demise. 

Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul review and plot summary

Episode 1 has an excellent short sequence of two opposing opinions and perspectives played side by side — a great way to get multiple opinions across quickly without confusion. Each episode has a mixture of interviews, animations, voice clips (as some people did not agree to be filmed), and fancy, colorful collages, making it very eye-catching, which hooks you in and gives a short adrenaline rush. 

The first two episodes focus on James and Adam developing Juul E-cigarettes and their edgy marketing campaigns. There was a relentless focus on wanting a cooler, better, safer way to smoke and here they created this new innovation to replace cigarettes. We look into nicotine and cigarettes; the addiction and the business, which is extremely interesting, and for non-smokers like myself, terrifying. 

They keep repeating how you cannot die from E-cigarettes, but without years of data from dead bodies who have consumed this product how on earth they can make this statement is truly fascinating. The social media marketing campaigns and advertising behind the product are eye-opening, and comparing them back to older themes developed by Big Tobacco, which no longer can advertise, is jaw-dropping. 

There are multiple interviews with people associated with Juul, including co-founder Adam. We hear from an enthusiastic recruiter for Juul, an anonymous engineer, and investors — I enjoyed that they kept the same pool of interviewees small. There are swanky behind-the-scenes shots of the interviews, showing all the expensive-looking equipment. This is an interesting take — mirroring the efforts it took behind the scenes to get this company up and running. 

The third and fourth episodes focus on how the company came under huge criticism, and how the co-founders were turned into villains; the scrutiny, their retreat, apology tour, and huge, plummeting downfall. This all has spurred new regulations from the FDA — and rightly so. 

Is Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul Love Worth Watching?

As someone (a millennial) who doesn’t smoke and never has, it’s completely mind-blowing to me how they were able to convince people to move from one smoke product to another. Especially their ability to convince them it’s a good move, and healthy for them — it’s genius. It’s excellent marketing, and whilst they claim to be using technology to improve people’s lives, the reality is they created a generation addicted to e-cigarettes which is extremely harmful.

As E-cigs/vaping is allowed in the UK at present and there are no nationwide legal restrictions or laws enforced on vaping in public areas, I hope this documentary sheds light on the issue and more legal restrictions are put into place. 

It’s a classic rags to riches story, and like the old saying, what goes up must come down. As this miniseries is covering something current and prevalent it makes it even more interesting. It’s one of the most important documentary mini-series you’ll watch this year.

What did you think of Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul? Comment below.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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