Take a Tobacco Class Before Trying E-Cigarettes

by Mike Miller August 5, 2013

This is the fourth in a series of blogs looking at the tobacco industry and most notably – its newest product – e-cigarettes. Regardless of where you are in the United States today, you undoubtedly have come across someone “smoking” an e-cigarette. Of course e-cigarette is the more popular name for the electric cigarette.

How do you smoke an e-cigarette? As reported in www.sfgate.com.

This is the multi-million dollar question. First off, you don’t “light up.” E-cigarettes are battery-powered.

Do you think smoking an e-cigarette is simple? Not hardly. They actually have two primary models – with button and without. The with-button option means that you push a button and inhale and get your nicotine fix. The without-option means you just pop the cap and puff away. The primary drawback to the no-button e-cig is that in addition to inhaling to release nicotine, these cigs can go off with things like loud music.

In essence an e-cigarette has liquid nicotine which is in a cartridge placed at the top of the e-cigarette. The liquid then goes through an atomizer to convert the liquid nicotine to a vapor.

In future blog entries we will look at how healthy or unhealthy these e-cigarettes really are. For now, let’s leave it with that instead of more than 3,000 chemical in a single tobacco cigarette, e-cigs have only nicotine and flavoring (number of chemicals vary).

An Entire Industry

They look just like the traditional tobacco cigarette with the yellow part (the cartridge) screwing into the atomizer (the white part). Of course as with most other modern gadgets you can accessorize with your e-cigs. The base can come in any color and they come in many flavors as well. There are also lines of pouches to carry e-cigarettes and the accoutrement that comes with them.

There are a lot of public health questions surrounding the use of e-cigarettes, but one thing is not in question - they are becoming a popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes. One in five smokers in the United States had tried e-cigarettes in 2011 - up from 1 in 10 in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

E-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid nicotine so people can inhale it, began appearing in U.S. stores in 2007. They contain fewer hazardous chemicals than tobacco cigarettes but are so new that no long-term studies have been done to determine the health effects both for smokers and those who breathe in the vapors secondhand.

But nicotine, whether from a cigarette or an e-cigarette, is "a known addictive agent that is not helpful in any way," said Dr. Daya Upadhyay, an assistant professor of pulmonary critical care at Stanford. So she says she encourages her patients to quit smoking entirely rather than switch to e-cigarettes. She added that e-cigarettes still contain toxic chemicals. "We can't say yet whether it's less harmful than tobacco," she said.

It's currently legal to smoke e-cigarettes indoors in many places - although some businesses and local governments, including Marin and Contra Costa counties, have banned them anywhere tobacco cigarettes are outlawed. The Legislature is considering a similar ban for California.

Companies do not market the product as a smoking cessation tool because that would put it in a category of products, like nicotine gum or patches, that the Food and Drug Administration regulates. But a British study out last month showed that 75% of the 1,400 e-cigarette users who responded to a survey said they've entirely replaced tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes.

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