Electronic-cigarettes, also called e-cigs, are battery-operated nicotine inhalers.
E-cigs work by burning liquid on a small heating element inside the smoking device. It creates a vapor that is inhaled and exhaled by the smoker, just like a regular cigarette.
The device creates no actual smoke or odor. It’s also absent of the tar and other dangerous chemicals present in conventional cigarette smoke.
The e-cig liquid comes in a dizzying array of flavors such as bubble gum, gingerbread, peanut butter cup, kettle corn and marshmallow. Only e-cig liquid that contains nicotine is illegal to sell to minors. But store owners can sell the electronic cigarette device and any of the flavors without nicotine to anybody if they choose.
Electronic cigarettes have gained in popularity as stores specializing in them continue to pop up across North Texas.
Use among young people is up as well.
“We don’t sell to kids, no matter what,” said Danny Cagle, “even though it’s not against the law.”
Cagle and his wife, Shirley, own Vapor-ettes Electronic Cigarettes store in Decatur. He believes the state or federal government needs to step in and create a law banning the sale of all e-cigarettes and e-liquid to minors.
Cagle stands by the e-cig and believes it has helped a lot of people quit using tobacco.
“I think it’s a very good product because it gets people off smoking and snuff,” he said. “That’s the object of this product. To help people quit smoking.”
“This is the new sexy,” said Jane Jones, an employee at Vapor-ettes. “The Marlboro man has died. It’s cool now to be seen vaping. And I’ve seen it get an 80-year-old man who smokes three packs a day to quit.”
Employee Katrina Williams said they add the amount of nicotine there at the store. There is a process whereby longtime or heavy smokers can whittle their daily intake of nicotine down to zero.
“A heavy smoker would start off with what we call a 24,” she said. “Then they might go down to an 18, and keep lowering their nicotine intake.”
“We’ve even had doctors send us some patients to try and help them quit smoking before an upcoming surgery,” said employee Linda Branscum.
Several North Texas cities have banned the sale of electronic cigarette devices or accessories to minors. Flower Mound’s city council approved a ban on Feb. 3, prohibiting minors from purchasing or possessing the devices and outlawing use of the product on any town property where smoking is prohibited. Lewisville, Rockwall and Murphy have all passed similar prohibitions.
Last month, the Bridgeport school board looked at adopting a rule that would prevent e-cig use by anyone at all campuses.
“We already have rules in place that don’t allow students or district employees to use them at school,” said superintendent Eddie Bland. “The only group not covered by it is visitors. The board could, if they choose, adopt a policy to prevent anyone from using them on campus.”
Bland has heard of the devices being used in other ways by minors than just smoking the liquids sold at stores.
“I saw a report where kids would put vodka in them,” Bland said. “It vaporized it sent it directly into the blood stream. They get hammered on it.”
Others have been known to put liquid THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their e-cig device.
“It’s like anything else,” said Shirley Cagle. “It’s up to the parents to warn their kids about it being misused.”
There is still more research needed on the health effects of e-cigs, but the medical profession and scientists generally agree that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco smoking.