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.

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