Health, Science and Technology

E-cigarettes gain steam as a tobacco-free smoking alternative

By Josh Naquin

 

The mist-ifying new trend in smoking is not smoking at all. A growing number of smokers are giving up on tobacco, but not nicotine.

Electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, heat up a nicotine liquid and convert the liquid into a mist the user inhales. E-cigarettes’ reliance on vaporization to deliver nicotine distinguishes them from tobacco cigarettes, which use a combustion process sparked by fire. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco and they don’t produce smoke.

Many cigarette smokers are switching to e-cigarettes for monetary and health reasons. Engineering junior Jeremy Baumgartner made the switch two months ago.

“Me, my roommate and girlfriend all went and bought e-cigarettes on the same day,” Baumgartner said. “We haven’t bought a pack of cigarettes since.”

Baumgartner is part of a growing trend, according to Ra Shop Salesman Josh Corbett.

“We started selling e-cigarettes four months ago and they’ve already become one of our top sellers,” Corbett said.

Corbett said the rise of e-cigarettes, especially in his traditional smoke shop that sells tobacco cigarettes and smoking accessories, has been meteoric. Corbett largely attributes the rise of e-cigarettes to their long-term affordability.

He said a starter kit for e-cigarettes runs about $90. That’s a steeper initial investment than tobacco cigarettes, which run about $6 a pack. Corbett said the upkeep fee for e-cigarettes, however, is only $15 a month. This allows e-cigarette smokers to defray the startup cost and save money over time.

“People come in and at first they say oh my gosh. Ninety dollars is so expensive for cigarettes,” Corbett said. “They’re always happy though, to spend $15 a month instead of $6 or more a day.”

Corbett said the e-cigarette consists of a charger, battery and tank filled with flavored Nicotine liquid. He said the batteries and chargers tend to last a while and the maintenance mainly consists of replacing the liquid tank about every two weeks.

Corbett said the customizable aspect of e-cigarettes, which come in a variety of colors and utilize a wide spectrum of flavors, is another contributing factor to their popularity.

“Basically if you can make a snowball or daiquiri using it, you can make e-juice using it,” Corbett said regarding e-cigarette flavors.

Jeremy Baumgartner said he has tried more than a dozen e-cigarette flavors.

“King Cake is my favorite flavor for all day smoking. Watermelon-kiwi is also good,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said he researched e-cigarettes on the online crowd-sourcing website Reddit. He said he was initially skeptical that electronically produced vapor could fill the void left by burning tobacco.

“It’s a bit different, but it scratches the itch,” Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said he is grateful he transitioned from tobacco to e-cigarettes for the health benefits, in addition to the monetary savings.

“I sleep better. I feel better. My mood is improved,” Baumgartner raved. “It’s incredible, the difference is really night and day.”

Kathy Saichuk, health promotion coordinator at the LSU student health center, said there are tangible health benefits that e-cigarettes hold over their tobacco-filled cousins.

“The health benefits, when compared to cigarettes, are no second-hand smoke and no tar byproduct,” Saichuk said.

Saichuk said optimism over the superiority of e-cigarettes should be tempered though, as the FDA is still measuring the chemical makeup of e-cigarettes. She said the e-cigarettes’ colorful appearance and candy flavors present a concern – marketing nicotine to kids.

Saichuk said e-cigarettes may be used as an effective smoking cessation tool, as they still involve the smoking sensation.

“Most of what we do in life is habit, cues that stimulate a reward,” Saichuk said. “My mother was a smoker and she’d light up a cigarette when the phone rang without even thinking of it. It was her habit to smoke while on the phone.”

Saichuk said the newer e-cigarette models allow for users to adjust the amount of nicotine they are ingesting. She said slowly lowering the nicotine levels can be a smart way to wean oneself from smoking altogether.

Baumgartner said there are benefits to e-cigarettes that stretch beyond health and the wallet.

“I like to rock climb and run. The e-cigarette is portable enough to take with me,” Baumgartner said.

As far as detractors are concerned, Baumgartner said there’s a “learning curve” to operating and maintaining e-cigarettes.

“It’s not as simple as lighting the end on fire, but once you learn the different pieces’ functions it’s not difficult,” Baumgartner said.

He said e-cigarettes present a great compromise for nicotine-addicted people like himself who are concerned about their health.

“I would 100 percent recommend them,” Baumgartner said. “Especially if you’re like me not wanting to cut out nicotine, but still wanting a healthier approach to getting it.”

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