Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Electronic cigarettes are taking over

As of July 1, Minnesota’s cigarette tax went up nearly $3 a pack and that has some smokers seeking alternatives like quitting or finding something else, like electronic cigarettes.
They give off water vapor instead of smoke and you cannot smell them, but some are questioning if they are really a safer alternative.
Those in the business of selling electronic cigarettes are staying busy.
“Some folks are just sick of paying too much money, other folks are just sick of the smell of smoke and everything else,” said Tony Keefe, owner of Vapin Midwest in Rochester.
His company lets customers sample the 60 different varieties he has available and if you walked in, he says you would not even notice.
“These things are smoked in here eight hours a day since February 20th; it’s vapor. It’s vapor and a little flavor, so the smoke’s in the air, there is no smell, there’s nothing for your clothes, your teeth aren’t turning green,” Keefe said.
The relatively new world of electronic cigarettes is leaving some with second thoughts. Those at the Mayo Clinic are not so sure that it is a safer alternative.
“We really don’t know what the health impact is from electronic cigarettes. Cigarettes we certainly know, it’s the only consumer product that kills 60 percent of the people who use it as recommended. The electronic cigarettes, there are over 170 different brands, manufactured in all different places and they’re not regulated yet,” said Dr. Michael Burke, Coordinator of the Nicotine Dependence Center for Mayo.
In the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada they are regulated as “drug delivery devices.” Burke and those at Mayo would be much happier to see that in the U.S. as well.
“While they may be a good idea, until there is some consistent testing and some standards, we don’t recommend them,” Burke said.
Instead they recommend a different alternative. Burke said there are products out there that are safe and proven to help smokers quit.
Keefe said he is sticking to what he sees at his business.
“We have no clinical evidence, ever of course, that it does any good or help you quit, but I’ve got 100 people minimum that I could show you that tried to quit smoking for 30 years and now they’re not smoking a cigarette at all,” Keefe said.
There is talk that the FDA could regulate the electronic cigarettes in the future. Sales of the product are expected to hit the $1 billion mark this year.
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Legislators aim to bar e-cigarette sales to minors

Appearing on the Late Show, sassy actress Katherine Heigl puffed an electronic cigarette as she told David Letterman it had helped her kick a smoking habit and live healthier since becoming a mother.
Rather than applauding, Tami Gouveia, executive director of Tobacco Free Mass, is cheering a new bill to prohibit sale of e-cigarettes and other "nicotine-delivery devices’’ to anyone under 18 in Massachusetts.
Gouveia supports the bill filed last week by Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Jamaica Plain, because she’s concerned such devices when glamorized by celebrities, like Jenny McCarthy and Johnny Depp, encourage minors to smoke.
"We regard them as an initiation pathway to using cigarettes. It’s dangerous to think of e-cigarettes as less dangerous than regular cigarettes. That’s what the industry wants us to think,’’ she said.
Sanchez’ bill "prohibits sale of nicotine delivery products … to anyone under 18" and restricts retailers and manufacturers from providing samples of such products "except in tobacco stores and smoking bars.’’
Sanchez said he wrote his bill because current state laws "are silent on the availability of e-cigarettes to minors.’’
"Right now, my 7-year-old daughter could walk in and buy them at several locations and nobody would say anything. We want to make such products inaccessible to children. … We need to keep our children from becoming a new generation of nicotine addicts,’’ he said.
E-cigarettes and related products are currently sold under the name Smoke To Live: The Electronic Cigarette from a kiosk in the Natick Mall and can be purchased at several area tobacconists, package stores and from on-line sites.

Dvora Lieberman, regional manager for Smoke To Live, which operates in Massachusetts and three other states, said company policy prohibits sales to anyone under 18.
"If someone looks underage, we instruct our vendors to ask for IDs,’’ she said in a telephone interview. "If you’re going smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes are better but they’re still addictive. It’s still a stimulant.’’
Lieberman said e-cigarettes can "definitely’’ help smokers quit traditional cigarettes which have many more harmful chemicals and they also provide "the option of reducing nicotine all the way down to zero if you want to quit.’’
She said e-cigarettes are also less harmful because they don’t burn and damage skin tissue and reduce the unpleasant tastes, smells and coughing associated with conventional cigarettes.
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Will e-cigs send tobacco bans up in smoke?

Smoking, in the form of electronic cigarettes, is making a public comeback in Rochester, six years after Minnesota banned traditional smoking in restaurants, bars and other places. "I've been using them for about 12 weeks. The majority of bars have been very friendly about it. I think they embrace it. Smoking… was taken away from them," said Brad Peterson, who uses his e-cigarette while working at Top Shots bar and other while out in Rochester. "It gives their customers new ways to, in essence, smoke again." The battery-powered devices atomize liquid nicotine and flavoring and expel a "smoke" that is actually water vapor. That's why many describe their use as "vaping" instead of smoking. They been around for years, but are suddenly surging in popularity with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio using them in public. The devices come in a wide variety of flashy styles and colors. Some look like a regular cigarette, cigar or even pipe, while others have a shiny and high-tech appearance. "Another great thing is that you don't smell.

My kids love it because I can smoke in the house,says J.R. Lewis, a friend of Peterson's. "And it's way cheaper." Peterson estimates his two pack-a-day habit would cost about $50 more a week than using the e-cigarettes to breathe fruit-flavored nicotine. Users can buy them at tobacco shops, convenience stores, Walmart, Walgreens and even at two Rochester e-cigarette outlets — Vapin Midwest and the Vape It Zone. Despite unanswered questions about the effects on users and bystanders, the Minnesota Department of Health has ruled that e-cigarettes are not covered by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act because they don't produce "smoke" and they don't contain tobacco or any other plant product intended for inhalation. That means use of the devices is not covered by any Minnesota rules other than the state requirement of that must be at least 18-years-old to buy a product that contains nicotine.

This is a case of technology providing smokers a legal way of circumventing rules that have severely restricted where they they can light up, as well as avoiding Minnesota's new Cigarette and Tobacco Excise Taxes, which added to the cost of a pack cigarettes in July. And the issue is far from settled, leaving a patchwork of rules regulating use in local businesses. People can not vape at Mayo Clinic or Apache Mall, but can light one up in Newt's and other restaurants, as well as in many bowling alleys.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Can E-Cigarettes Really Help Smokers Quit?

While electronic cigarette companies are forbidden to make claims about their products’ effectiveness regarding smoking cessation, a lot of smokers switch to vaping in the hopes that they will finally be able to quit. But can e-cigarettes really help you quit smoking? Health experts estimate that around 50% of lifetime smokers die prematurely from their habit. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of emphysema and chronic bronchitis deaths. 

You would think such grim figures could make anyone quit, yet there are still around 45 million smokers in America and hundreds of millions more around the world. Studies have shown nearly 70% of cigarette users actually want to give up the dirty habit, but despite the potentially fatal consequences, they are unable to. Classic nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) like nicotine gum, patches and inhalers  have a fail rate of over 98% and just 10% of those who try to quit cold turkey stay smoke-free in the long-run. Like doctor Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation says, “We need better treatments because the current ones just aren’t working all that well.” Could electronic cigarettes do a better job of helping people quit cigarettes for good? First, let’s see why smoking is so addictive. Mere seconds after inhaling a puff of cigarette smoke, the nicotine it contains reaches the brain and binds to receptor molecules on nerve cells triggering them to release a flood of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that washes over pleasure centers. 

The effect is almost immediate but very short in duration, prompting the smokers to take more puffs and light-up again very soon. Over time, the number of nicotine receptors increases, along with the need to smoke at shorter intervals to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. But if nicotine were solely responsible for the addiction, NRT should, at least in theory, help ex-smokers get over their cravings. Unfortunately, the dose of nicotine in most medicinal products is not high enough for heavy smokers, and there are also other factors to take into consideration, like the everyday behavior and moods linked to smoking: the need to relieve stress or activities that trigger the desire to reach for a cigarette. That’s what sets electronic cigarettes apart from all the other conventional smoking cessation methods. 

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that e-cigarettes can actually help smokers quit. Forums are filled with stories of users who had tried everything from patches to going cold-turkey and failed, ultimately managing to kick the habit with these revolutionary battery-powered devices. But such reports, however numerous, are not enough to convince scientists and authorities that e-cigarettes are indeed effective smoking cessation aids. Most online media outlets would have you believe there is very little scientific evidence on the subject, when in fact there are plenty of studies that offer very encouraging results. The latest one, entitled entitled ”Efficiency and Safety of an Electronic Cigarette (ECLAT) as Tobacco Cigarettes Substitute: A Prospective 12-Month Randomized Control Design Study” followed 300 smokers with no intention of quitting over a period of 12 months. They were give e-cigarettes with different nicotine doses, and at the end of the study, 13% of them quit smoking entirely. That’s a pretty big number considering they had no intention of quitting cigarettes at the start of the clinical trial. Another 12-month study conducted by researchers from Catania, Italy, showed the use of electronic cigarettes substantially decreases tobacco cigarette consumption in patients suffering from schizophrenia. The primary finding was a 50% reduction in cigarettes smoked per day in 7 of the 14 test subjects. It’s a known fact that quitting smoking is particularly difficult for people suffering from mental disorders, so the result was surprisingly successful. In 2011, an online survey conducted by Dr. Michael Siegel revealed that out of the 222 respondents, 31% reported a total abstinence from tobacco cigarettes for at least 6 months, 66.8% reported a significant reduction in the number of cigarettes they smoked, and 48.8% percent quit cigarettes for a shorter period of time.