May 25 2014

Electronic Cigarettes

By: Jhesika Menes

 Smoking is optional – breathing is not. The qualm with the non-smoking population is this: no one likes smoke in their immediate proximity when they don't smoke themselves. How does this apply to the e-cigs that have recently hit the scene? Some say smoke is smoke whether it's water vapor or that of burning additive stuffed paper, but some beg to differ by way of empathy.

I surveyed a group of people ranging in race and age on the e-cigarette use in public places. 80% supported the ban of the devices wherever smoking is not permitted. 20% showcased empathy suggesting their support was solely based on the user adapting to a healthier course of action to kick a bad habit. It wasn't until I interjected with scenarios involving specific locations, like doctors offices and movie theaters, did I receive any vacillation in opinion. Of those interviewed, 50% were caucasian and ranged in age from 28 to 43, the other 50% were African American and ranged in age from 32 to 60. 

I wasn't able to determine a solid faction of those opposing to those supporting because the results were mixed. What was interesting is that the older crowd was for the smoking of vaporized products in public more so than the younger folks. It seems that perhaps a generational gap had revealed itself. I understood that the ages of those backing the use in public fell within the late 30's to 60 year old sector. What was acceptable during the height of their youth is no longer allowed, such as smoking cigarettes in restaurants, bars, supermarkets, airplanes, etc. While I am a young thirty-something myself and can remember smoking allowed in restaurants and at the local shopping mall, I have to take into account that I also grew up in an area where country fields were laden with cash crops like tobacco.  

Things are much harder to boycott when they butter your bread. In my research I discovered multiple studies based on the quit rate in the US and the legislative laws censoring tobacco use and sale. Remember Joe Cool? The cartoon camel of Camel cigarettes, a brand produced by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, became extinct in advertising due to its appeal to children. Headlines read, “Joe Camel, Dead At 23” marking the end of a decades long campaign that non-smoking activists claim imbued a hip and fun vibe to lure children. On the retort, RJR execs challenged that the use of the colorful character was to gain attention of smokers loyal to major competitors — not children. Innocent marketing goals aside, President Bill Clinton declared, ''We must put tobacco ads like Joe Camel out of our children's reach forever,'' and in conclusion the cigarette company pulled the promotions to the tune of a $368.5 billion dollar settlement.

But even this didn't end the run of cigarettes. Surgeon General Warnings have been updated over the years to imply smoking while pregnant can cause birth defects and lung cancer but never once were the products entirely pulled off shelves. Doctor Michael White, a General Practitioner in New York City added to the topic that pulling cigarettes from the market would lead to another prohibition of sorts. 

“You can't take something away from the people that has been there long enough to create addicts,” says White. “It is proven that cigarette smoking can lead to cancer and emphysema, but until the government, insurance companies, and medical industry stop making money off of the sale – or the effects of the sale — there won't be an end to it. The medical advances we've made in the past 100 years supports scientific ability to cure AIDS and diabetes by now, but you'll never see that because pharmaceutical companies make far too much profit off pushing preventative drugs. Though this is purely my opinion, I've seen and experienced what I've seen and experienced. Anyone who tries to tell me otherwise is full of it.” 

Maybe the good doctor isn't far off base with his presumptions. The e-cigarette is just another tool to prolong an addiction. Though the companies that push these devices claim they help curb cravings and ease withdrawals for people attempting to quit smoking it has also been deemed a vehicle used by non-smokers to enter the playing field. The allure of the e-cigarette is in the laxity expressed by venue owners that don't regulate the use. 

“An establishment that would otherwise eject a person from the premises for lighting up a stogie but won't bat an eye at someone puffing away on an electronic version is essentially what condones smoking and prolongs the habit,” advised Clair Montoya of tobaccofree.org. The organization aims to reveal the negatives of e-cig use by suggesting users be subjected to the same non-smoking rules as regular smokers. “If you want to help someone quit you hold them accountable to rules they would normally be bound to. If a person can puff on their e-cig in a restaurant while their buddy has to suffer 20 degree temperatures to get their fix don't you see how the buddy may opt to switch to the e-cig out of comfort preference alone? Genius tactic, however the venues that allow e-cigs to be used where smoking is prohibited are the ones ultimately failing.”

According to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Center for Disease Control, “The use of electronic cigarettes has increased over the last few years and the same case applies to the level of poisoning. Their performance in the U.S. market has reached the $2 billion mark. Unlike tobacco, these battery-powered devices are smoked by inhaling nicotine vapors which do not contain the dangerous carbon monoxide or tar.” 

Don't get it twisted. I may write this column but I only have my own humble opinion and the enlightenment I receive from investigation. What I do have in relation to this topic is personal experience. I am a recovering model. Yes, I meant to say recovering. Its hard to find a model out there that doesn't smoke cigarettes. What we realize later in life is that knocking all the bad habits won't hinder fitting in and in essence helps preserve our looks. I smoked for 8 years and just recently tried e-cigarettes to combat the nasty routine. Blame it on vanity. What I personally liked about the e-cig is that after smoking it for a week I didn't want to smell like or taste a real cigarette. I smoked less of the e-cig because it did lack the additives and was quite strong. The convenience of puffing on it while watching a movie indoors at my home was a major plus. 

But what happened when my e-cig ran out? I went straight back to regular smokes and smoked 2x as much. The nicotine is there. It allows you to carry out the physicality of the obsession – the oral fixation, the force of a 'break', the true act of smoking. So when it runs out, you go back to what you know because honestly it's convenient. There's a store on every corner and you still have that lighter hidden in a handbag pocket just in case. I'm not 100% certain that it is the safest way to ease out of habitual smoking; I tend to believe more in the nicotine gums and patches on the market. Switch-hitting is a normal route with quitting anything. You try to nix carbs and you end up overindulging on starches. You cut out salt and discover a new found love for other spices that match up in the sodium department. You have to want to stop – completely. That is the first step. Is my goal to steer you away from e-cigs? Absolutely not. I simply wish to educate by instilling awareness of the lesser evil.

Herb Import Company has a vast selection of herbal substitutes and e-cigarette varieties. Their well rounded staff can offer information on useful replacements and insight regarding electronic devices. Ra Shop has an endless selection of customizable e-cig liquids and accessories. If you desire a flavor over the usual bland vapor, they can assist in catering to what your palette craves.  Crescent City Vape, recently opened on Magazine Street, specials in e-cigarettes and vaporizers, offering more than 150 flavors and a free tasting bar. 

Hookahs are another format. Many restaurants in the metro area offer these as menu items. Attiki on Decatur Street has a fine selection of flavors and the French Quarter location accommodates open window service that allows the smoke to filter out onto the street instead of hanging overhead. Illustration by Kevin Laughlin

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