by Lindsay Nadrich, KHQ Local News Reporter - email
Electronic cigarettes have now been around for about ten years. However, there are more people using them now than ever before. Conventional cigarettes are banned indoors, but right now, e-cigarettes are not.
"Essentially to make any e-cigarette work, you need a battery, heating element, and what we call an elixir," said Travis Jent, the owner of Vapor Lounge in Spokane.
Many people use the product to quit or reduce how often they smoke cigarettes, even though it is not currently a Federal Drug Administration approved method of quitting.
"What makes this different than a nicotine patch, is that it allows them to continue their habit," Jent said.
There is no question that in comparison to a conventional cigarette, e-cigarettes are less toxic.
"When you say that an electronic cigarette is less toxic and less polluting than a cigarette that is true. But, you are comparing it to tremendously toxic and polluting devices," said Dr. Stanton Glantz, a professor at University of California, San Francisco, and Director of the Center For Tobacco Control Research and Education.
However, that still does not mean e-cigarettes do not pose any health risks.
"The important thing to understand is, that does not mean they are safe, that just means they are less toxic," Dr. Glantz said.
A big part of the marketing for electronic cigarettes is that there is no second hand smoke, which is true in the sense that nothing is burning. So, what is it putting into the air?
"The claim that they just admit harmless water vapor is obviously wrong because if you look at the electronic cigarette companies' own marketing, you see a white puff coming out," Dr. Glantz said.
A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes has more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.
Many think aggressive advertising has a lot to do with it.
"It is not surprising that the CDC found that e-cigarette use is exploding among kids," Dr. Glantz said. "It just shows that the marketing is working for the e-cigarette companies."
"What we are seeing is a trend starting similar to tobacco products," said Kyle Unland from the Spokane Regional Health District. "So, I think that in general, some large tobacco companies have joined the ranks of the e-cigarette companies and are producing similar advertising campaigns, as what they were with tobacco and cigarettes."
Aside from celebrity endorsements used in the advertising, it is the flavor choices for e-cigarettes that have many saying the product is marketed toward kids. However, regular e-cigarette users say that is frustrating argument.
"We do not promote this to children in any way whatsoever," Jentz said. "But, unfortunately, being adults we like flavors. A lot of people once they begin vaping, they do not like the tobacco flavors any longer, they really enjoy the blueberry or strawberry and enjoy that a lot better than the tobacco flavors."
The bottom line is that e-cigarettes are not regulated and despite what you may think, they are not good for you. So, at least for now, Washington and Idaho pretty much let people smoke them anywhere.
"It is up to the establishment right now because there are not rules that prevent e-cigarettes in public establishments," Unland said.
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