Electronic Cigarettes: how do they work and are they safe?

It looks like a cigarette and tastes like a cigarette- even gives a “nicotine rush” like a cigarette, but it’s not one. It’s a way “smokers” are getting a nicotine fix anywhere they want– from bars and restaurants to the mall.
John Sawyer’s been smoking since he was in the Navy. “Cigarettes were ten cents a pack. Everybody smoked,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer used to smoke 2 packs a day. Now he’s cut that in half, because he now smokes electronic cigarettes as well.
Sawyer took a puff to demonstrate how they work. “The more you pull on it the more you’re going to take it in,” Sawyer said. As he puffs, a light at the end of the e-cigarette lights up.
The electronic cigarette delivers nicotine into the lungs and only releases water vapor. So why did Sawyer begin buying them? “Why?, because you’re welcome everywhere with one of these, where you’re not welcome anywhere with a cigarette,” Sawyer said.
Now it seems electronic cigarettes are sold everywhere form the mall to local convenience stores.
Mike Ferguson started buying them five months ago. “And so I started with the mild. I think it’s like 6 percent nicotine,” Ferguson explained, but he had an unexpected result after starting on e-cigarettes.
He lowered the nicotine level to zero and now merely puffs on e-cigarettes because it’s part of his routine. “It helped me to quit even though I didn’t want to quit,” Ferguson said. “I think it’s just the mouth-to-hand coordination. I need something.”
Now Ferguson can puff almost anywhere, even the mall and local restaurants.
The electronic cigarette basically has two parts, the filter which contains the nicotine and the battery that powers it. Basically all you do is put it together it’s two pieces, said John Neuse, an e-cigarette vendor for the company, Frii, that has kiosks at Valley View Mall in Roanoke and malls in Lynchburg, Danville and Blacksburg.
“It’s pretty close to an actual cigarette. It’s a little different but you can definitely feel the nicotine hitting your lungs,” said Neuse.
The nicotine filters come in different flavors and deliver different strengths of nicotine.
Neuse told News 7 the e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes. “There’s no chemicals to it. It’s completely safe for you. You don’t have all the carcinogens, the tar,” Neuse said.
We asked Carilion Clinic lung specialist Dr. Moises Cossio if e-cigarettes are safer than lighting up. “No question in my mind that whatever a person does as far as nicotine replacement, it’s better than smoking actual cigarettes,” Dr. Cossio said.
John Sawyer says he can breath better because e-cigarettes have helped him cut back on the real thing. “It’s as close as you can get without having the fire of a real cigarette,” Sawyer said.
Electronic Cigarette Facts
They’re such a new trend Dr. Cossio says there really haven’t been any scientific studies done in the U-S on them like there have been on the nicotine patch or gums to show how much nicotine is released into the body.
The Food and Drug Administration is trying to regulate them.
While e-cigarettes are allowed in public places in Virginia, several other states have included e-cigs in public smoking bans.
There are start up costs for e-cigarettes. You have to buy the device and the battery charger, but the actual filters are cheaper than real cigarettes.
Prices and quality may vary between e-cigarettes sold at mall kiosks and e-cigarettes sold at convenience stores.
By Jean Jadhon

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