Celebs Vaping e-Cigs: What You Need to Know

Everyone knows that cigarette smoking is bad for you.  Are e-cigarettes be a “disruptive technology” that will help current smokers quit or prevent former smokers from falling off the wagon?  Could they even be the beginning of the end of tobacco smoking altogether?

Jenny McCarthy says that e-cigs are a way to “take back her freedom” and eliminate “stink eye.”

e-Cigs, short for electronic cigarettes, seem to be all the rage in Hollywood. A-listers such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robert Pattinson and Dennis Quaid have all been seen “vaping”.  According to the Urban Dictionary, vaping means  inhaling vapor from E-cigarettes (there is no smoke because nothing is on fire or burning).

Introduced less than a decade ago, the electronic cigarette market has already become a multi-billion dollar industry. Blu, the industry leader, has recently started a celebrity ad campaign using The View’s Jenny McCarthy and actor Stephen Dorff.

What are electronic cigarettes and how to they work?

Electronic cigarettes (also known as ENDS – Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) are  battery-powered devices which simulate tobacco cigarette smoking. There is no tobacco and no burning (combustion) in e-cigs.  A heating element vaporizes a liquid solution which contain a mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerine mixed with water and an atomizer which turns the nicotine solution into a fine mist or vapor. The cartridges contain nicotine + flavoring but you can also buy cartridges that  don’t contain nicotine, only flavoring.

blu_electronic_cigarette

Users puff on the device as you would a regular cigarette.  The device heats the liquid and changes it to a nicotine-filled vapor. Vaping the eCig delivers the nicotine to your lungs.  The initial investment to purchase a typical starter kit, which contains the e-cigarette device, a battery and several cartridges, can cost anywhere from $60 to $150. A pack of five cartridges (each equal to about a pack of cigarettes, depending on how much a person smokes) goes for about $10. And refillable cartridges are available which may provide significant savings to users.

The Promise and the Perils

Makers of e-cigs advertise them as a way to help people quit smoking.  According to scientific studies, however, eCigs are no more or no less effective at this than nicotine patches.  Other researchers believe that e-cigs do have the potential to make the combusting of tobacco (i.e. smoking) obsolete.

e-Cig manufactures also tout the benefits of e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco. But studies show that most people who use eCigs are dual users who both vape eCigs and also smoke regular paper-and-tobacco cigarettes.

You can get your e-cigs in many flavors including butterscotch, marshmallow, chocolate, strawberry and bubblegum.

Because they contain no tobacco, e-cigs are not regulated the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives nor are they regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  What this means is two things:

  1. There are no age restrictions on the sale of e-cigs like there are on tobacco products.
  2. e-Cigs have not been evaluated for safety the same way that foods and drugs are.

The FDA is trying to get e-cigs classified as a drug (nicotine) delivery device so they can better understand the effectiveness and safety of vaping.

The Bottom Lines

According to Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF:

…e-cigarettes seem like a good idea but probably aren’t

And according to Deborah Tolmach Sugerman:

 e-Cigarettes look like real cigarettes and their use might increase the social acceptability of smoking in general

Lastly, Dr. Tracy Hampton believes that candy flavors and lack of age restrictions on the sale of e-cigs could make them a starter product for nicotine addiction in kids.

Go to Resounding Health for more information and sources for this story.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

2 Comments

  1. Erich Wieshofer

    September 30, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Last year I lived off campus with two friends in a small two bedroom apartment. I did not expect to have any problems with them because we had all been friends for two years. Everything was great until the start of second semester when my friend, Stephen, began using e-cigarettes. He picked up the habit when he went back home and found his high school friends had started using them. He then bought his first vapor cigarette and “Fruit Punch” flavored cartridges with nicotine and loved it so much he bought more and would smoke for an hour a day. He could smoke indoors because it wouldn’t set off the fire alarm but the vapor was so pervasive you could smell the obtrusive fruity tones throughout the apartment. This led me to research e-cigarettes online where I found a menagerie of information pointing to its flaws and detrimental effect on health in our society.
    Therefore, based on my research and experiences I agree with the tone of this article which clearly reveals the negative effects of vapor cigarettes. The problems that the author associates with vapor products are undoubtedly augmented when e-cigarette companies utilize celebrities to promote their products. Smoking used to be considered fashionable when movie stars were seen smoking in their films and in public. It appears as if this vapor phenomenon will benefit from the same practice. A vapor smoking culture may soon appear and turn what is currently a fad into a societal habit much like smoking cigarettes was for decades in the United States.
    While vapor is much safer than cigarette smoke and it provides people who quit something to satisfy their nicotine addiction, its negative impact on younger generations is too great to ignore. Since e-cigarettes are not considered a drug by the FDA there is no age requirement to purchase the vapor cartridges. When young and impressionable Americans see their favorite celebrities “vaping” in movies and on the streets of Hollywood they will be tempted to buy vapor products thereby initiating their addiction to nicotine before they even reach the age of 18. E-cigs could act as a gateway to traditional paper-and-tobacco cigarettes which are more potent and less expensive. What we have learned so far in this course indicates that images in media advertising can influence the viewer greatly as it carries with it a persuasive ideology. In this case the use of celebrities to sell e-cigarettes perpetuates the idea that vaping is chic and socially acceptable. Furthermore, the value and prevalence of these images will be greatly enhanced with the products being marketed towards the easily impressible youth of today. Therefore, it is imperative that we treat this new fad as we do conventional smoking not because they are dangerous to our health but because they have the potential to create a new generation of smokers thus erasing all of the progress we have made in the eradication of a smoking culture.

  2. Daniel Imas

    October 31, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    One of the most interesting aspects of e-cigarettes to me is the comfort with which so many Americans began using them, despite obvious limitations to the testing done on their effects. It’s true that historically celebrities have been able to influence trends like smoking cigarettes, but this trend evolved so quickly that I believe it can be attributed more to technological fads and perceptions of e-cigarettes as healthier than traditional cigarettes. On face, it seems obvious why e-cigarettes would be better than cigarettes, since they don’t have any tobacco content. As this article points out, there’s more to the picture, including that e-cigarettes may not be more effective than nicotine patches and that smokers usually do not replace smoking cigarettes with e-cigarettes entirely. In fact, the effects of e-cigarettes have not been systematically evaluated due to the lack of FDA regulation. However, this demonstrates a greater trend among the public where people believe that they are well informed enough to pass judgments on new technologies despite lacking requisite knowledge. For example, when MRIs were a growing technology, many people were immediately put off by the idea that it was referred to as nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. To avoid public backlash against the use of the world “nuclear” at a time when there was significant stigma surrounding nuclear weapons and energy, it was excluded from the name of MRIs so that this useful technology would not be stigmatized as well. With the rise of the Internet, patients have a greater opportunity to participate in their own healthcare and to conduct research on different ways to stay healthy, but along with that comes the possibility of misinformation. As people become more comfortable with information they gather online, on TV, and from their friends, they seem to feel more comfortable making medical judgments on areas that they have relatively little exposure to and that are more complicated than they may grasp. An analogy can be made to those who read one biased political article and feel like they are experts on a complex issue that many spend their lives studying. In this case, some may think that e-cigarettes will be a cure-all for their smoking addiction since it in theory eliminates tobacco use, despite no concrete evidence proving that they help to do so. In my experience, I’ve seen many friends who are long-time smokers begin to use e-cigarettes so that they do not smoke, only to begin using both e-cigarettes and cigarettes. Despite this, they still tout their new “healthier” lifestyle. This fits into trends showing a rise in popularity for other healthy-sounding fads, like diet soda and various celebrity diets, which have minimal scientific backing while being advertised as an easy and healthy way to shed pounds. Although the rising comfort of the public with medicine is a good way to establish credibility for doctors, we have a long way to go before the general public is given truly accurate health information.

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