E-cigarettes: A 'healthier' option for smokers?

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by By JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on November 13, 2008 at 2:34 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 3:31 PM

A 'healthier' option?

Janet St. James reports

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Public smoking bans are spreading and so has the demand to stop smoking. For some, a new product might be the answer.

It looks like a cigarette. When the tip lights up, a wispy plume drifts up after a drag. But, there is no fire, tobacco or smoke. The cigarette is fake.

"Smoking Everywhere," a battery-operated electronic cigarette, has gotten a lot of attention at Grapevine Mills Mall and on the Internet.

"With this device, you can actually enjoy smoking without the bad parts of the cigarette," said Ohad Naim, Smoking Everywhere's franchise owner and operator. "There is no tar, no tobacco [and] no bad chemicals that can cause you cancer."

The electronic cigarette has been available in Europe for year. A commercial claims Smoking Everywhere "is the healthier way to smoke."

Since it isn't real, the e-cigarette enables people to get around the public smoking bans. The device gives a jolt of nicotine with every drag, satisfying the addiction.

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"It looks like a cigarette," said Dr. Gary Weinstein, a Presbyterian Hospital pulmonologist who treats smokers.

After being shown the device, Dr. Weinstein handed over some information that may surprise some.

"Nicotine is very similar to caffeine," he said. "It's a stimulant. It's very addicting, like caffeine. But nicotine by itself is not a terrible thing."

That is the reason nicotine gum and patches have been used for years to help kick the habit.

But the e-cigarette product is different in the fact that it gives an authentic feel of smoking without exposing anyone else to second-hand smoke.

The e-cigarettes even comes in flavors like cherry, chocolate and mint, which is where Dr. Weinstein said the product can become potentially dangerous.

"I would think the obvious reason to me that they would offer that in flavors like that is not for smokers," he said. "That's for people that want to play with it and for kids; which for me, I would think would be an easy next step to start smoking."

Dr. Weinstein said the cool design, slick marketing and addictive nicotine filters could easily get a young person to try it and then get hooked.

However, Naim said that isn't the case.

"No, we don't sell it for people under the age of 18," he said. "So, they cannot use it."

Teenagers News 8 spoke with said the $150 price tag is a bit steep.

But Ernest Oviedo, who started smoking as a teen, recently bought one.

"I want to quit smoking," he said. "I like smoking, but I know it's bad so I just want to give it a try."

Addiction experts caution anyone not currently addicted to nicotine to stay away from the product.

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