Sunday, May 10, 2009

E cigarettes spark debate

e cigarettes, ecigarette, e cigarette , Carolyn Smeaton puffed a few
long drags between sips of steaming coffee in the doughnut shop near
her house. It was a heavenly moment for the smoker who's missed having
a cigarette with her coffee since the smoking ban went into effect
nearly five years ago.

"You could smoke anywhere," Smeaton said. "I miss it. It took a lot away."

Smeaton wasn't turning up her nose at the law by smoking in a public
place, she was "vaping" on an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette.

A quick vapor that dissipated in seconds came off the metal tube when
she puffed. There was no smoke or odor, no mess and no ashtray needed.

"I haven't seen anyone doing it around here but me," Smeaton said.

E-cigarettes were invented in 2004 in China. Web sellers market them
as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

The devices remain largely unknown to most people, including health
officials. No one is quite sure of their safety or if they should fall
under smoking ban regulations. None could be found sold locally.

The traditional e-cigarette models are about the same size and color
of a cigarette, though heavier. They consist of a cartridge and
membrane that contain water, propylene glycol (a food and cosmetics
additive), nicotine and a flavoring that emulates tobacco or other
tastes, like vanilla and caramel. The battery heats the cartridge when
the smoker drags on the e-cigarette, the tip glows orange and a vapor
is emitted.

"I'm still new at it," Smeaton said, unpacking a red, flowered purse
of e-cigarette paraphernalia — a small bottle of liquid nicotine and
another of flavoring for refilling the cigarettes, and some new

She also had a black, pen-shaped e-cigarette hanging around her neck.
This one was even more innocuous to the general public because it
didn't look like a cigarette and the tip glowed blue when she dragged
on it — perfect for those coffee shop visits, she said.

"You get your nicotine and you get to vape in a Dunkin' Donuts," Smeaton said.

When people ask what it is, Smeaton opens the metal tube to show them
it isn't a cigarette and she isn't breaking the law. She shows them
how it works and said most people are OK with it at that point.

"I personally think it's a better alternative to tobacco," Smeaton
said. "I can't say it's safer, but I believe in my heart that it is."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't so sure. E-cigarettes have
not been approved as a quitting method like the nicotine patch or gum,
or as an alternative to smoking like chewing tobacco.

"FDA has reviewed several 'electronic cigarettes' and determined that
those products were making 'drug' claims," said Susan Small, a public
affairs technician in the New England District FDA, in a written
statement. "We have detained and refused several such products on the
grounds that they were unapproved new drugs."

The FDA considers e-cigarettes to be "adulterated devices" and is
reviewing the products on a case-by-case basis, Small said.

The World Health Organization in a statement last year said
e-cigarettes are not a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit
and questioned the product's safety.

The American Cancer Society has also weighed in.

"There is no strong evidence that shows they improve one's chances of
quitting," said Kate Rogers, state director for the American Cancer

Smeaton, a smoker for 34 years, was smoking three packs of cigarettes
a day before she learned about e-cigarettes and ordered them online
about a month ago. She was drawn to the fact that they don't contain
the harmful tar found in cigarettes or produce any second-hand smoke,
also that they satisfy the tactile habit of smoking.

She said she tried, unsuccessfully, to quit for years and has given up.

"I've been through the gum, the patch, Zyban, Chantix and hypnosis
twice," Smeaton said.
Both her parents died of cancer and she said she felt like she was
next if she didn't do something.

"It's not a pleasant way to go," Smeaton said.

Since her husband lost his job a few months ago, the price of
cigarettes also played into her decision to try e-smoking.

"I can't stop. I can't afford it," Smeaton said. "I need some kind of

Smeaton smokes about 10 traditional cigarettes a day now and e-smokes
the rest of the time, saving herself quite a bit of money, she said.

"My common sense tells me four ingredients are better than 4,000
ingredients (in cigarettes)," Smeaton said.

Smeaton says she's pleased with the results after making the switch to

"It's far exceeded my expectations," Smeaton said. "I know I feel
better. When I get up in the morning I don't cough anymore. For people
like me, sadly, it's the only thing left. I hope the FDA leaves it

Thanks for story


  1. We are born in a smoke free world and it is just right that we strive to offer our children the same kind of environment. Be involved and help empower everyone by taking part in the yearly WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY which will be on May 31st!