Straight Talk Advice

Oct 01, 2013

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.

Katelyn 18, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Just because the product is vaporized it's still nicotine and will still cause addiction and other problems. Because you are craving it, don't smoke it. Ask her to put it away if necessary.

Molly 21, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

E-cigarettes use nicotine — so, yes, they are addicting! They don't have most of the nasty additives found in regular cigarettes, so while they might be better than regular cigarettes, they are still very unhealthy! Many young people are smokers. Even more smoke at parties. But be warned, it's a slippery slope. Most regular smokers started with just one or two at a party. As a former smoke, You DON'T want to start! It's been ages since my last cigarette and I still want to smoke like the day I quit! It's not only physically addicting, it's also psychological. Your brain constantly tries to talk you into smoking. Don't start or you're signing up for a lifelong battle!

Treyvon 20, Yorba LInda, Calif. Ask me a question

E-cigarettes are just as addicting as normal cigarettes — even more so depending on the nicotine dosage. Any form of tobacco, like hookah or 'spliffs' (half pot, half tobacco) is addictive.

Breele 19, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

I have two friends who were pack-a-day smokers. It was becoming difficult to resist joining them. They switched to e-cigs and quit regular cigarettes cold turkey. None of us has touched a real cigarette in three months. Just smoking flavored liquid nicotine cuts out over three hundred chemicals found in real cigarettes and eliminates second-hand smoke. They are definitely addicting, though — it's nicotine!

Carlos 18, Fairfax, Va. Ask me a question

A couple of friends own e-cigarettes. They tend to be less addicting because of their reduced nicotine [readers: this is false]. The bottom line with smoking is YOU have to control it. My friends and I sometimes go out to smoke hookah, but we smoke the ones with names like blueberry, cookies and cream, mango, etc., which have little nicotine in them [readers: another falsehood; hookah is tobacco!]. On poker nights, my guy friends smoke cigars. Sometimes I decline because I've smoked enough that month. If you're craving to smoke, STOP!

Justin 26, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Some friends use e-cigs as a cigarette alternative or as a smoking-cessation aid. None have successfully only used the e-cig or quit smoking. Vapor is less harmful than smoke, however, inhaling anything other than air is not a healthy choice.

Dear Jill: I'm glad you wrote because your friend — and much of the population — think electric cigarettes are innocent flavored fun. What is everyone smoking? Answer: liquid nicotine — processed straight from tobacco. The same nicotine that hooked your parents. You're being duped/doped on purpose with fruit and bubble gum flavors and savvy advertising by cartoon characters and celebrities. There are no restrictions on e-cigarette marketing — or shame, apparently — and, once again, children and teens are being targeted for a lifetime of addiction and disability. We are the only species that takes a highly poisonous and addictive substance and feeds it to our young. Lemmings have nothing on us. Please, Jill, prevent me from going crazy by saying no to e-cigarettes and all forms of nicotine.

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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  1. By Justin, age , from Redding, Calif. on 11/25/2013

    Today in my college respiratory class, my instructor said that e-cigs are in fact harmful. Not only is there still nicotine which has an array of harmful effects, but there are other substances, too, which are harmful.  It’s also transferred transdermally, so if someone is using an e-cig and the vapor lands on your skin, you absorb the stuff! I found this very interesting.

    Reply to this comment

  2. By Laura Offutt MD - Real Talk with Dr. Offutt, age drlauraoffutt.blogspot.com, from Philadelphia on 12/06/2013

    This is a great topic.  I think this is a critical topic for teens to be aware of, especially due to the potential for nicotine addiction that in facts leads to tobacco use later in life, as one of the commenters described.  I am trying to spread the word to directly teens as well about e-cigs and how they might affect them via an online teen health content community called Real Talk with Dr. Offutt. 

    The post on e-cigs is here:  .  http://drlauraoffutt.blogspot.com/2013/12/vaping-and-technofoggers.html

    Real Talk with Dr. Offutt is also on Twitter, Pheed and Tumblr.

    Reply to this comment

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