E-cigarettes offer tobacco alternative, but are they safer?


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER and editor JOSH SMITH

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE


Posted on September 24, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 24 at 5:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Forty states are now urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and to regulate ingredients. The attorneys general of those states claim e-cigarettes, or vaporing, is highly addictive. Supporters of the product in Central Texas say it provides a safer alternative to tobacco smoking.

During happy hour at the All About Vapor shop on Airport Boulevard, you won't find any alcohol or regular tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars or pipes. What looks like smoke is actually vapor.

"It's an alternative to tobacco smoking," said Courtney Mendoza, the owner and vice president of All About Vapor.

Vaporing, or vaping, is the term used for electronic cigarettes or personal vaporizers.

"We use a liquid nicotine substance that's cut with propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and common food flavorings," said Mendoza.

They have about 250 different flavors. That liquid is then vaporized by a heating element, usually a lithium battery, inside the e-cigarette.

"I smoke a pipe because like it," said Chris Ward, an All About Vapor customer. "I like to smoke, and vaping gives me a lot of the pleasure without the restrictions and without the possible health hazards."

Michelle Hunter has wanted to quit smoking for years.  

"I want to get healthy," said Hunter. "A lot of my friends, my brother and girlfriends have gone on this, and they have now all quit."

Is vaping a viable and healthy alternative to conventional smoking? Dr. Matthew Anderson, a pulmonologist with St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, says he can't recommend it to his patients, because there's simply not enough data to support the benefits of vaping.

"Propylene glycol, you know, is a foreign substance," said Anderson. "We don't know what that does to the lungs long term."

Anderson is also concerned about varying nicotine levels in the vapors.

"It's not controlled by the FDA, so you can have one product that's very low in nicotine or get another one that's very high, which could be quite toxic," he said.

Mendoza agrees more studies are necessary, but she says her customers can always request nicotine and propylene glycol-free liquids if they so choose. As for Hunter, she believes vaping is the wise choice for her.

Mendoza says every customer is told that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking, just a safer alternative, and only the customer can determine if vaping holds the key to quitting smoking.

The FDA has been looking into e-cigarettes for more than a year and is expected to issue regulations in the near future.
Go here for more information about All About Vapor.

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