According to many college students, tobacco products are harmful and not as socially acceptable as they once were, but what if someone picked up an electronic cigarette?
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were invented in the 1960s, but did not take off until a decade ago, as reported by ABC News. E-cigarettes produce water vapor instead of tobacco smoke. They look similar to regular cigarettes and have the same effect as nicotine, but are better for the environment. This alternative to regular cigarettes is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, which in turn does not put an age restriction on purchasing the product.
E-cigarettes give the smoker the same type of nicotine buzz a normal cigarette would give, without the harmful effects of tobacco or tar.
Judy Lyle, associate director of Health Services, said the e-cigarette may be better for the environment, but contrary to popular belief, health is still affected.
“These cigarettes cause a cytological and physical problem,” Lyle said. “The cytological problem involves the look and feel of the electronic cigarette and how it affects the mind. It makes them want to take a drag because it looks just like a cigarette. Physically, smokers have to take a deeper inhale to satisfy themselves with the electronic cigarette.”
E-cigarettes are often used by people who want to decrease the amount of cigarettes they smoke a day or as an aid to quit smoking. Lyle said quitting smoking is a difficult task to overcome, and quitting cold turkey can be worse.
“I wouldn’t recommend starting these cigarettes as we find them just as harmful as the original,” Lyle said. “We have 12-week programs for those who would want to quit smoking in a healthy way.”
E-cigarette smokers such as Vinny Parlato, local handyman from Murray, said it has helped in the long run to quit smoking.
“I haven’t even thought about picking up another cigarette,” Parlato said. “I have been smoking since I was 18 and smoked about half a pack everyday. Some of my friends in the east end of Kentucky showed me the electronic cigarette about three weeks ago and I have bought it ever since. I’ve even influenced other people like my brother-in-law to use it.”
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, studies show 30 percent of people who make the change to e-cigarettes quit smoking completely.
“I really don’t see the problem with electronic cigarettes because they are not harming anyone around me,” Parlato said. “I think of it as a healthy and cheaper way to smoke without bothering others.”
Toby Monts, freshman from Murray, said e-cigarettes do not give him the satisfaction a regular cigarette would.
“I only smoke the e-cigarettes once in a while,” Monts said. “I would agree with Lyle and the fact of it involves cytological attributes. I think it is a good alternative for the environment, but your health is still affected.”
Gas stations everywhere are now selling e-cigarettes as another option for smokers in Kentucky. Brian Weatherford, store manager of Shell gas station, said their tobacco sales have increased five times since they have put e-cigarettes on their shelves.
“We still sell regular cigarettes to our costumers, but we have increased our sales dramatically over the past two years because of the different options,” Weatherford said. “I do not see them as a problem, but I still do not like them because they can still be addicting just by the look and feel of it.”
Though doctors and students seem to agree e-cigarettes are better for the people around you and can help smokers kick the habit, e-cigarettes still have an affect on the smoker’s health.
E-cigarettes are similar to devices called vaporizer pens, which have recently stirred controversy. Vaporizer pens can be used to smoke other products such as marijuana, hash and hookah. Law enforcement agencies are watching the trend closely to enure safety of users.
Story by McKenzie Willett, Staff writer