Daily Archives: June 4, 2009

FDA crackdown on e-cigarettes draws local criticism

While trying to quit smoking, Betty Ainsworth tried nicotine gum, patches and lollipops. Nothing worked until she discovered a little-known product: The electronic cigarette.

Bum an e-cigarette

Brookings drivers who can’t function without a cell phone grafted to their ears, a teen who cannot move from place to place without an iPod earbud stuffed into the side of her head, a businessman who cannot conduct even his simplest daily routines without his BlackBerry.
Now some people are even relaxing with digital cigarettes, little LED-equipped drug-delivery tubes that, from a distance, you can’t tell from the real thing.
They’re called e-cigarettes , and more and more smokers these days are lighting up the electronic smoke substitutes.
South Dakota smokers have begun to accept the reality that smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places could be banned for good starting this summer , and now local smokers have one more option to help temper that craving for nicotine - and at the same time enjoy the feel and taste of a cigarette without producing any form of second-hand smoke.
That’s because the e-cigarette is finally available in Brookings.
Ask Jamie and Dave Corae if they would encourage others to try the e-cigarette , and their answer is “Why wouldn’t you encourage people to use these?”
The Coraes are a Brookings couple who have been using the e-cigarette a little more than a month. They initially purchased the product as a step toward quitting smoking. What are they?
An e-cigarette is an alternative to smoked tobacco products. It is a battery-powered device that provides doses of nicotine to be inhaled in a vaporized propylene glycol/nicotine solution form. In addition to nicotine delivery, this vapor also provides a flavor and physical sensation similar to that of inhaled tobacco smoke, while no tobacco, smoke or fire of any kind is actually involved in its operation.
The Coraes, who smoke heavily (at least a pack each a day), first purchased their e-cigarette kit from a gas station in Brookings. The two intended to cut down or quit smoking because they have two young children at home and wanted to provide them with a smoke-free environment.
“We realized we needed to do something major one day when our 3-year-old picked up a cigarette we had left lying on the kitchen table,” said Jamie.
Like the real thing, simulated smokes are not cheap: According to the Coraes, the brand they smoke are called Club 51 E-Cigarettes , and the start-up cost for the product was $80. The e-cigarette usually has the outward appearance of a cigarette, but some are designed as cigars and pipes. The kit the Coraes bought included two of the e-cigarettes devices, a charger, and cartridges equivalent to a carton of cigarettes.
While e-cigarettes take many forms, they generally employ the same basic components : a mouthpiece, a heating element, a rechargeable battery and various electronic circuits. How do they work?
When a user inhales through the device, airflow is detected by a sensor, which activates a heating element that in turn vaporizes a nicotine solution stored in the mouthpiece, or cartridge. It is this vapor that is inhaled by the user. An LED light on the opposite end of the e-cigarette is also activated during inhalation, which not only simulates the orangy glow of burning tobacco but it serves as an indicator that the device is “on” and working.
But there’s more.
According to the Coraes, the LED-fire at the end of their e-cigarettes blink - 10 times when the product needs to be charged, and three times if they are using it too much. The Coraes added that the ecigarette takes about two hours to charge and is selfcleaning .
According to Dave, the two haven’t noticed many, if any setbacks or differences to using the e-cigarette .
“The biggest thing I noticed at first was the weight. The e-cigarette is heavier than a normal cigarette ,” he said. “The taste is a bit different as well, but not bothersome. It’s more pleasant , because you don’t have to deal with smoker’s breath.” Cuts smoking costs
Also according to the Coraes, purchasing cartridges for their e-cigarettes has cut the cost of smoking way down. Each pack of five filters , equal to 10 packs of regular cigarettes, can be purchased for $20.
A common complaint about the e-cigarette is that a user doesn’t know when to quit taking pulls from them, as they never burn down.
According to the Coraes, with time, smoking the e-cigarette becomes self-regulating .
“When you get used to using these, sometimes, you feel satisfied after one or two pulls,” said Jamie. “You don’t always even need to smoke an entire cigarette’s worth of the vapor.” Health issues and smoking in public
Although the e-cigarette is not currently FDA approved, several tests have been done on the product. It is generally marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking. That’s because the vapor produced by the e-cigarette contains only water, nicotine and propylene glycol, which is often used as a solvent for food colorings and flavorings. That means smokers who replace regular cigarettes with e-cigarettes aren’t inhaling any of the other toxins or tar contained in cigarettes. No actual burning tobacco - and no second-hand smoke - means the electronic ciggies can even be used in an office setting, provided the employer goes along with the deal.
Users can even purchase cartridges that mimic the specific taste of certain brands of cigarettes, like Marlboro or Camel. Solutions are available in other flavors as well, such as menthol, strawberry, vanilla , orange, coffee or mint.
According to the Coraes, smoking the e-cigarettes in public has been a combination of interest, confusion and fun. “At first, it was a lot of fun, puffing on it as I walked through Walmart,” said Dave. “At first, I used them a lot in public, and all my encounters with people telling me I can’t smoke were deliberate. I like to be able to challenge peoples’ perceptions, to explain to them about the product and to get the word out.”
According to the Coraes, none of their public encounters while using the e-cigarette were unpleasant. Most business owners allowed them to continue on, though a few places in town don’t allow the use of the product indoors, mostly so staff doesn’t have to watch for people trying to sneak use of regular cigarettes. Life after cigarettes
The Coraes say that, after a month of using the e-cigarettes , they haven’t been able to completely quit smoking regular cigarettes.
“Sometimes you just get a craving, you really want to have a normal cigarette,” said Dave. “But we have managed to cut way down.”
The two are down to a pack of normal cigarettes every three or four days, and both have confidence they’ll soon be able to stop smoking completely. And they are already seeing health improvements, as well.
“My skin has more color, I breathe easier and can smell and taste again,” said Jamie. “I started noticing the changes about a week after I started using the e-cigarette .”
The electronic-cigarette smokers are now converts, hoping to spread the word.
“Why wouldn’t you want to give this product a try?” said Dave. “To me, it’s all pros - no smoke, no ashes or ash trays, no tar in your lungs, you can smoke anywhere , there’s no holes in your clothing and no yellow film over your windshield. You still get the hand-tomouth satisfaction of smoking . You can’t lose.”

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