By Tyler Mitchell – Senior Editor
Entering the search phrase “ways to quit smoking” into Google will bring up dozens upon dozens of pages. From patches and spray, to inhalers and gum, many of these methods continue to deliver nicotine to the brain in gradually decreasing amounts.
But in recent years, a new alternative method of nicotine absorption has hit mainstream markets. It’s called the e-cigarette, and according to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, approximately four-million Americans are now using them.
“Ninety-eight percent of the people that are starting are just getting off cigarettes. I can smell a new customer walking through the door. Literally.” said Todd Smith, owner of The Vaporosity Shop. Smith, a user of e-cigarettes himself, opened his Davenport store at the corner of Brady and 31st street in 2012 and has since enjoyed steady business.
Vaping involves the use of an electronic cigarette, a device that converts a liquid nicotine compound into vapor. Most liquids, or juices as they are often called, are flavored and contain varying amounts of nicotine.
According to the FDA, how e-cigarette use affects the health of the user has yet to be determined. But Smith insists that for longtime users of traditional cigarettes, they carry a range of different benefits.
“Everything in the cigarette, the pesticides, the formaldehydes, the tar, none of that is going in your system,” Smith said. “Immediately when it hits your mouth, that’s it, the nicotine goes into your system. All you’re doing is blowing out water vapor.”
In 2011 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 percent of adult Americans were regular smokers. Of those smokers, 69 percent had a desire to quit completely. For some, e-cigarettes might be the answer.
Broc Nelson, 28, first began smoking when he was 18. When he received an e-cigarette from his brother as a Christmas present, he was excited.
“For me it was something new to research and get interested in,” Nelson said. “It was kind of exciting to discover a new hobby, but also promising that I would gain a better sense of taste and smell.”
Nelson is a part of a growing trend that is leaving the traditional cigarettes behind in favor of the electronic form.
“I’ve had five cigarettes over six or seven weeks now,” Nelson said. “That is a huge improvement from ten cigarettes a day. I’m pretty happy with how all of that has turned out.”
Yet not all is well and golden in the world of e-cigarettes. Wrapped around the new technology is controversy. In some states and online markets, minors are able to purchase e-cigarettes without a problem.
“You have to be 18 to walk in my door and I card anyone who looks under 30,” Smith said.
Many of the products that Smith sells actually state that users need to be over the age of 18. However, the situation is different depending on where you buy. Some online vendors do require that customers verify that they are 18 or over by clicking a simple button, but this does not make it impossible for minors to purchase e-cigarettes online.
In fact, the CDC found that e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 4.7 percent to 10 percent between 2011 and 2012.
To add to the controversy, the use of e-cigarettes in public locations like restaurants or bars continues to be a hot issue.
The Iowa Smokefree Air Act prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, amphitheaters and during outdoor entertainment events. It also applies to places of employment including healthcare facilities, childcare facilities, and office buildings. As it currently stands, this legislation does not apply to e-cigarette use.
“The Smokefree Air Act was enacted prior to the public marketing of e-cigarettes,” said Kim Mills, program coordinator for the Scott County Health Department. “It is up to our legislators to make determinations to include e-cigarettes in revisions to the Iowa Smokefree Air Act.”
Legally speaking, e-cigarettes can be used in some public locations. But according to Mills, many establishments are putting policies in place to restrict the use of e-cigarettes. For Nelson, when it comes to vaping in public, it’s simply a matter of respect.
“I think discretion should be used,” he said. “Whether or not it is appropriate, the jury is still out on the harms of second hand vapor. That requires testing. But be polite about it and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t do it if you think it’ll be inappropriate.”