LIMA — One of the latest and more popular methods to wean off cigarettes has not received the American Lung Association seal of approval.
Fifteen years ago, e-cigarettes arrived on the scene, a device whose appearance mimicked that of an actual cigarette, but instead of smoke, the device released vapor. Once the user inhales, the battery starts and heats the light bulb filament and the battery, and the device releases the vapor composed of nicotine and artificial flavors, according to James Jarvis, president of the Ohio Vapor Trade Association and an owner of Vapor Station.
When these devices first came out, the cartridges were not refillable, causing users to frequently buy new ones. However, about seven years ago, the manufacturers realized how to rebuild coils to allow the device to be refilled. This then led to refillable tanks, and people began purchasing e-cigarette liquids from online stores like Cosmic Falls, Space Jam and Five Pawns, according to Jarvis.
“Those guys are, early on, some of the beginners that really led the evolution of vape,” said Jarvis. “They started selling liquids in bottles online, and then someone got a great idea to open a vape shop. Then it just started catching on in the United States through word of mouth.”
Vapes are a larger version of e-cigarettes that typically have the ability to release more vapor by controlling the wattage on the module, have larger tanks, have rechargeable batteries and some can even charge via USB connection.
Vegetable clycerin, a liquid derived from plant oils and proplyene glycol, a colorless liquid, nicotine and artificial flavors are the main ingredients of the vape liquids, according to Jarvis. Although VG and PG are natural substances, Erika Sward, American Lung Association National Assistance Vice President of Advocacy, said that the chemicals are harmful when inhaled.
“It’s misleading to call what is exhaled from these products a vapor, which implies water,” said Sward. “This is all about chemicals — a chemical cocktail that is being exhaled. Even the Surgeon General concluded that the secondhand aerosol that is inhaled is not safe.”
Despite the fact that the Lung Association and various other health organizations believe that e-cigarettes are harmful, the Royal College of Physicians, which consist of about 35,000 doctors in the United Kingdom, created the Nicotine Without Smoke report in 2015 that contradicts that belief.
The combustion of a cigarette, once it has been lit, can be harmful, as it releases all of the toxic chemicals into the lungs of the user. However, vapes do not do that, according to Jarvis.
“According to the Royal College of Physicians, vaping was 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes,” said Jarvis. “ [The] UK seems to be looking at these quicker than we seem to do in the U.S. They were the first to really publish actual scientific data.”
There are approximately 700 vape businesses in Ohio. according to Jarvis. At any given store, customers can choose from various e-cigarettes and vapes with over 10,000 liquid flavors ranging from bubble gum to fruit, pastries, candy and more. E liquids can contain anywhere from zero to over 30 ml of nicotine.
“There is no safe level of exposure of nicotine for youth and adolescence,” said Sward. “They may claim to have no nicotine and it has not been verified by third party. A lot of them are being mixed up in the shops and no confidence in their measurements.”
Sward adds that e-cigarettes are extraordinarily marketed to children, as they hope to trap a new generation of smokers.
“There is a reason why all of these flavors exist and this is a tactic that big tobacco used for decades to market and addict kids and they are doing it all over again with e-cigarettes,” said Sward. “We are seeing more and more evidence that e-cigs are a gateway to traditional cigarettes.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of teens smoke tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and approximately 31 percent of teens smoke in the United States.
“Kids, rightly so, resent the fact that the tobacco industry is continuing to manipulate and find ways to addict them,” said Sward.
Owners and managers at DG Essentials LLC, Epic Vapes and Vapor Station agreed that it is their duty to ensure that minors do not get a hold of the products. Many of the managers make sure to ID multiple times through visits and during a transaction.
Although the Food and Drug Administration has not officially found toxic elements contained in the e-liquids, tobacco products including e-cigarettes, which are now classified as tobacco products, are to be reviewed if made past Aug. 8, 2016.
“While FDA has taken steps to begin their oversight of these products, manufactures do not have to submit ingredients to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no required consistency within products or within the same ones that roll off of the manufacturing line,” said Sward. “Nicotine levels and toxins can vary within them.”
DG Essentials owner Denise Guagenti was addicted to cigarettes and had several health problems. Since transitioning to vapes, she is now seven years clean and and has fewer health issues. She said that when she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a doctor had encouraged her to vape and her heart doctor said that it was fine.
According to a recent study by Georgia State University, people who have used e-cigarettes had 70 percent lower odds of quitting smoking than people who did not.
“The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarettes to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit,” said Sward. “You will hear a lot that these things help people quit, but the evidence shows otherwise.”
Sward concludes that the most efficient way to end smoking is by consulting a family doctor, calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting lung.org.
Although Jarvis believes that vaping is the one of the best solutions for those looking to quit smoking, he does not recommend it as a habit for those who have not been introduced to smoking.
“When someone comes into my store the first question I ask is, ‘Do you currently smoke?’, and if they say no, then I say that this is not really the option for you,” said Jarvis. “We don’t want to start a habit; we want to end a habit. We are interested in solving a problem and not creating a new one.”
Jarvis was inspired to join the industry as a way to help those like his grandma, who passed away from lung cancer when he was 16.
“There are so many testimonials in every shop,” said Jarvis. “It went from being a business to a community. The industry is so amazing for people who are trying to quit and want to quit.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.