Girl craving friend’s e-cigarette
Dear Straight Talk: My friend uses an e-cigarette when we go for coffee or to parties. Lots of kids smoke cigarettes at parties but she says her parents would flip out if she was a smoker. She says she doesn't want her clothes or car to smell and that e-cigs are not very addicting. Lately I've been taking puffs with her and sort of crave it. Is it really less addicting? Everyone says something different. —Jill, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Editor's Note: Just when we thought the stench-ridden, skin-wrinkling, deadly habit of cigarette smoking was declining into the dust bin of "what people did back when we were too dumb to know differently," a new sweet-smelling, candy-flavored, smokeless way to inhale nicotine has arrived. Big Tobacco is breathing a sigh of relief as they hook the next generation on the "electric" cigarette.
What started out as a fad 10 years ago, the Chinese-invented, nicotine-vaporizing device, dubbed the e-cigarette, is a booming — if not smokin' — industry. Last year, the e-cigarette industry recorded more than $1 billion in sales. Profits are projected to reach $10 billion in the next five years and to ultimately surpass traditional cigarette sales.
According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, close to 2 million U.S. middle and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012 — more than double the 2011 use. Most have been convinced that e-cigs are low in toxicity and hardly addicting at all. For this we can thank the prime-time ads and celebrity endorsements extolling the fun, the convenience, the health virtues of the e-cigarette, reminiscent of the days when doctors and movie stars went on TV to blow smoke about traditional cigarettes.
Because the e-cigarette remains an unregulated product, the tobacco marketing and advertising industry has launched a full-on feeding frenzy upon our young. Some states, California included, have prohibited sales of e-cigs to minors, but in other states under-18-year-olds are free to shop at vapor stores.
What is an e-cigarette? For those still in the Marlboro Age, electric (or electronic) cigarettes, are battery-powered liquid-nicotine delivery systems — basically cigarette-shaped 'vaporizers' (just keep reading.) A perusal of the local chic 'vapor store' (cropping up in every town like locusts), I found that the cheapest 'starter e-cig kit' cost $45. This basic device consists of a battery compartment, flavor cartridge (where the nicotine + flavorings + water + propylene glycol is stored), and an atomizer (which heats the propylene glycol solution to produce the smoke-like "vapor"). I watched two women "puff" away on their high-end $120 e-cigs, while raving to me about them, the exhaled vapor pouring from their nostrils and mouth looking like any other smoker's smoke. The difference was it smelled amazingly good, like candy, and, being a vapor, dissipated quickly. (So much for the claim that it is odor free. It definitely smells! And I'm assuming if the vapor carries nicotine into the lungs, there must be a certain amount that comes out, thus dispelling the myth of no second-hand toxins.)
It was sexy as hell. I got out of there quick before I wanted some.
Oh, and you actually DON'T know what you're smoking (well, other than antifreeze and nicotine). The flavors — hundreds of them with names like "Chilax Menthol", "Double Barrel Cherry", and "Oasis" — are not required to list their ingredients. The sales clerk confirmed my suspicions: all synthetic.
The Economist just printed a list of "most harmful" drugs. Nicotine ranks 6th, right after meth and cocaine. Fortunately, there are small pockets of sanity. France, who banned public smoking in 2007, has already instigated a ban on public e-cig "smoking" too. France's National Consumer's Institute tested 10 types of e-cigarettes and found formaldehyde and the toxic compound acrolein, which has been shown to cause lung damage. U.S. Food and Drug Administration analyses show that e-cigarettes contain toxins and carcinogens, including tobacco-specific nitrosamines, diethylene glycol, and other components suspected of being harmful to humans.
While e-cigs are too new for long-term data, research published in "Chest Journal" the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, showed that short-term use of the e-cig delivers immediate adverse physiological effects that are the same as smoking traditional cigarettes. Nicotine apparently does harm regardless of whether a tobacco leaf is burned or liquid nicotine is "vaporized". No duh.
Cigarette smoking remains the number one preventable cause of disease, disability, and death. Every year in the United States, 443,000 people die from it, and for every person who dies, 20 more have a smoking-related disease.
Most nicotine users became hooked as children or teenagers. Parents, make sure to tell your kid the known truth: Over 25 percent of users are hooked after using nicotine only once. Almost half are hooked in 4-9 uses. That's not very many parties. In addition, take the time to bother your federal, state and local representatives to ban e-cigarettes for public consumption and place marketing restrictions on all nicotine products ASAP.
It spins the mind that an industry so blatantly intent on poisoning our young even exists, much less has power. While I'm happy for current smokers to have an alternative way to inhale their poison in a slightly less poisonous way, it's still a poison — and the new method is just as addicting. Nicotine was already seductive when it tasted like hot scorching death to the throat and lungs. How sad for our children that it is now a smooth cool vapor that tastes like candy. What are we smoking? —Lauren
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