For a device designed to replace smoke, electronic cigarettes are catching fire.
“They’ve definitely skyrocketed recently,” said Nathan Gantt, manager of the Puff N Snuff tobacco store in Shippensburg.
Electronic cigarettes, battery powered devices that convert liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor, hit the market in 2007.
Sales ignited recently when e-cigarette manufacturers like Blu began running advertisements. According to Gantt, current smokers who are trying to quit make up a large part of the market.
“The majority of [e-cigarette purchasers] are just using them in an attempt to quit. Because you can get the nicotine content levels in different varieties, you can start off on extra high nicotine and wean yourself down to lower nicotine, and then eventually no nicotine at all,” Gantt said.
This use of e-cigarettes is an example of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which, according to cancer.org, can help with cravings. NRT also includes methods like nicotine gum and patches that can help cut nicotine withdrawal symptoms. However, NRT only treats the physical part of the addiction.
Part of what triggers a smoker’s desire for a cigarette is imbedded in the smoker’s psyche. Environmental stimuli can cause cravings. An important part of quitting is to identify these stimuli and eliminate them as much as possible.
The benefits of quitting are innumerable.
The list of carcinogens found in cigarette smoke is extensive — many of them can also be found in batteries and paint. According to the center for disease control and prevention, cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals.
According to a 2009 study by the FDA, replacing traditional cigarettes with electronic versions may not be any safer. The study analyzed the two leading brands of e-cigarettes, finding that the vapor contained dangerous amounts of carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.
Currently, electronic cigarettes are unregulated by the FDA, and could even be purchased without proof of age in many places throughout the country, including Pennsylvania. The devices can also be purchased online.
On April 24, the FDA proposed strict regulations on the devices, including prohibiting sale to minors. Right now, the only tobacco products handled by the FDA are cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco.