Health & Medical Resources Guide
Herald Journal Health & Medical Resources Guide
published July 2011
E-cigs are becoming popular alternative for smokers
By Linda Scherer, Staff Writer
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette or e-cig) resembles the conventional tobacco cigarette, and e-smokers, using the battery-powered simulators, still have to huff and puff on them the traditional way to inhale nicotine in vapor form.
However, the fairly new product, invented in 2003 by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, supposedly has fewer health risks, and some brands even suggest the product can be used to help smokers quit smoking all together.
There is some controversy regarding the long-term effects of using the e-cigarette from various health organizations, but the e-cigarettes have received an endorsement from the American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP).
AAPHP Chair Dr. Joel Nitzkin submitted a statement regarding state regulations for the e-cigarette April 2, 2010, which said: “AAPHP favors a permissive approach to e-cigarettes because the possibility exists to save the lives of four million of the eight million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next 20 years.”
One advantage the e-cigarettes have over conventional cigarettes is the smoke that is produced is strictly a harmless vapor mist, according to the AAPHP.
Propylene glycol and glycerin are used as nicotine carriers. These create the visible vapor, and are commonly used in theatrical fog machines, asthma inhalers and air fresheners.
“This creates a situation in which we can confidently state that the risk to others sharing an indoor environment with an e-cigarette user is almost sure to be much less than 1 percent of the risk posed by environmental tobacco smoke,” according to the AAPHP.
For e-smoker Shawn Baudler of Cokato, safe smoke means he can use his e-cigarettes legally indoors at restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and other public buildings.
Baudler, who has been smoking on and off for 15 years, likes the convenience of the e-cigarettes.
He’s found it gives him the freedom to smoke in his home, something he doesn’t like to do with conventional cigarettes when the kids are around.
“With electronic cigarettes, you could blow it (smoke) in someone’s face and they might get a little waft of the flavor, that’s it,” Baudler said.
Baudler has also found that he is able to take quicker breaks with the e-cigarettes than with conventional cigarettes.
“I can pick up the electronic cigarette, take a drag or two and set it down,” Baudler said. “If I smoke a cigarette it’s a 5 or 10 minute break.”
One of the reasons Baudler takes longer with a conventional cigarette is because he doesn’t want to waste it.
“If I start a cigarette, I feel obligated to finish it, especially at $6 a pack,” Baudler said.
He also doesn’t enjoy relighting a half used cigarette.
“It has a slightly different taste,” Baudler said. “It’s a personal thing, but I can’t stand to smoke a relit cigarette.”
Baudler cautions conventional smokers that smoking e-cigarettes does take getting used to.
“A lot of people, when they first try the electronic cigarettes, will say, ‘I can’t even tell I am getting anything,’ until they exhale,” Baudler said. “So there is this whole learning to smoke electric that is different. You don’t have to suck as hard.”
Jeff Rich of Cokato has been smoking conventional cigarettes for 25 years. He has been using the e-cigarettes to try and quit smoking for about six months.
“I still steal an occasional real cigarette,” Rich said. “But with the electronic cigarettes, I don’t have a smokers’ cough and my sense of smell and taste have also returned.”
Rich tried to quit smoking using nicotine gum and lozenges in the past, but both gave him heartburn.
Rich and his wife also like the electronic cigarettes because they come in flavors.
Some interesting flavors e-cigarettes offer include death by chocolate, coffee, menthol ice, mocha mist, Irish cream, cherry crush, strawberry, vanilla, cool mint menthol, and a traditional tobacco flavor.
Baudler first learned about electronic cigarettes a couple of years ago when his sister’s boyfriend tried them. He was using the three-piece e-cigarette and was filling the cartridge when it was empty.
“It was cool,” Baudler said. “I tried it but never pursued it because at the time, the electronic cigarettes were much more complicated, with more pieces, and they were somewhat expensive to get.”
Today, the e-cigarettes come in a simpler two-piece design, which both Baudler and Rich prefer because they are easier to use.
Another advantage of e-cigarettes is that they don’t cost as much as traditional cigarettes. Once the e-smoker orders a “starter kit,” purchasing replacement cartridges is about half the cost of regular cigarettes.
“One filter lasts as long as a pack of cigarettes,” Rich said. You can buy 10 filters in a case for 30 bucks,” Rich said.
The only thing Rich doesn’t like about the electronic cigarettes is the e-cigarette case he carries with him in the car.
“It’s a compact and hard to open, especially when I am driving. You need two hands.”
Although Baudler does enjoy the freedom the e-cigarettes give him, he has discovered he is smoking more.
“Every cartridge is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, but you don’t have that ability to ration,” Baudler said. “One of the nice things about electronic cigarettes is that you can pick it up and take two or three drags and set it down. One of the bad things about it is you can take two or three drags and just set it down.”