Saturday, November 01, 2014

Potential risks juice talk of regulation

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 6/11/2014

Elizabeth Conaway is climbing down the ladder — the nicotine ladder that is.

Conaway, Ottawa, made the change from smoking traditional cigarettes to “vaping” electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, two weeks ago and already has cut down her nicotine intake, she said. When she made the switch, Conaway, who works at Tobacco Planet, 427 S. Main St., Ottawa, started with 24 milligrams of nicotine in her e-cigarette and now is down to 11 milligrams, she said Wednesday morning.

Elizabeth Conaway is climbing down the ladder — the nicotine ladder that is.

Conaway, Ottawa, made the change from smoking traditional cigarettes to “vaping” electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, two weeks ago and already has cut down her nicotine intake, she said. When she made the switch, Conaway, who works at Tobacco Planet, 427 S. Main St., Ottawa, started with 24 milligrams of nicotine in her e-cigarette and now is down to 11 milligrams, she said Wednesday morning.

“I’m going to ween myself down to zero [milligrams of nicotine],” Conaway said. “[E-cigarettes] still have the same benefits [as a traditional cigarette] — the relaxing and calming feeling without the stale smell. The 24 [milligrams] is pretty harsh the more you use it. It does have those same effects on your throat.”

E-cigarettes are smokeless devices that deliver nicotine to the user via three integrated parts: the nicotine cartridge, the vaporizer/atomizer and a lithium ion battery. The battery powers the cartridge and releases the nicotine, which is contained in liquid, by heating, turning it into vapor, rather than burning like a conventional cigarette, according to the American Medical Association. The user inhales and exhales the vapor, thus the term “vaping.”

Conaway already has seen many new customers come in looking to make the switch from cigarettes, she said.

“A lot of older people who have been smoking their whole lives have had their doctors tell them to only smoke e-cigarettes, and they come in and I show them how to use it,” Conaway said.

Nearby, one of Ottawa’s newest businesses opened with the intent to help people quit smoking cigarettes using “vaping” devices, the owner said.

Alex Noor, Lawrence, opened the E-Vape Shop about three weeks ago at 415 S. Main St. Suite B, Ottawa. The business sells e-cigarette products including atomizers, flavored juices and starter kits for those new to vaping.

“I know there are a lot of smokers around in this area, you know,” Noor said. “I figured if I opened a shop, it could help people to quit smoking cigarettes.”

NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE

Whether e-cigarettes actually help smokers quit indefinitely hasn’t yet been proven, Midge Ransom, director of the Franklin County Health Department, 1418 S. Main St., Suite 1, Ottawa, said Wednesday.

“People use e-cigarettes as a means to try to quit smoking [traditional cigarettes],” Ransom said. “There will be individual cases that say it is effective, but looking at the whole universe of people who try it — we don’t have that data. I don’t know if it is really effective, but that would be its value.

“Another value that people have attributed to e-cigarettes is the reduction in some of the chemicals found in tobacco, such as tars and arsenic and things like that,” Ransom said.

Little independent research has been conducted into e-cigarettes’ ingredients and health effects, but they are commercially promoted by vendors as a safe alternative to cigarettes, the AMA said. The medical group announced Tuesday its support for classifying e-cigarettes as drug delivery devices, subject to the same federal regulations as cigarettes.

“The [Food and Drug Administration] has warned that they are potentially addicting and contain harmful toxins,” the AMA said in a news release.

Ransom agreed on the potential health risks with vamping.

“The risks are significant, but not necessarily as much for the user as for the kids around them,” she said. “It is the liquid being absorbed through the skin. Children, especially those under the age of 5, are very susceptible to nicotine poisoning, but so are other children. The poison control center has received a tremendous amount of calls regarding nicotine poisoning. Kids get a hold of the bottle where you refill your e-cigarette and they get nicotine poisoning.”

Vaping liquid includes a propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG) liquid that is mixed with the nicotine and food grade flavoring, according to an article on GrimmGreen.com. The flavoring allows several different flavors for those who use e-cigarettes to choose from.

The American Medical Association has criticized the vaping industry for offering such flavors as cotton candy and bubble gum, which they say could be targeted to children.

“The fact that they come in fruit and candy flavors gives them the potential to entice new nicotine users, especially teens,” Dr. Edward L. Langston, AMA member, said.

E-Vape Shop offers 38 different flavors with anywhere between zero and 24 milligrams of nicotine content. The different selections of nicotine content can help with those looking to quit smoking cigarettes, Noor said.

“With zero milligrams there is no nicotine at all, it is just PG, VG and some flavoring, and 24 milligrams is the highest milligram we go,” he said. “So let’s say somebody’s been smoking for 40 or 50 years, you know, and they are trying to quit. So they start the highest nicotine [level], which is 24 milligrams, and they keep doing it and maybe two or three weeks later they go down to 18 milligrams and gradually to 12, nine and three milligrams and, at one point, they are just vaping zero [milligrams]. By the time you are vaping zero, you don’t crave a cigarette anymore.

“PG and VG is the mix of the juice. If you want a flavoring like watermelon or strawberry, you’ve got to put some PG. The juice we sell is 50/50 which means it has 50 percent propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. A lot of people want to know because some people use 70/30 or 100 percent VG. The cigarettes, you know they have all the chemicals and other additives.”

Though there are 38 single flavors of juice at E-Vape Shop, Noor said there can potentially be more than that for customers wishing to make their own concoction.

“What makes us unique is that our juice is pretty good and we have taste testing,” he said. “If someone wants to buy, they can actually taste the [juice] before they buy it. We also can mix it for people. Let’s say we have a cherry [flavor] and Red Bull [flavor], we can mix [those two flavors together]. Pretty much, we do whatever the customer wants.”

VAPING GAINING POPULARITY

Noor, who also owns Tobacco Mart in Lawrence, as well as businesses in Topeka and Missouri, said his young business in downtown Ottawa already has had several customers who have typically shopped for vaping and e-cigarette supplies in Lawrence and Kansas City. His selection features items for both those new to vaping and people with a little more experience.

“We have some very generic kits for those who are just starting vaping,” Noor said. “Then, we have some stuff which is a little more higher end where you can do a lot of stuff like how many puffs you are getting, you can change the voltage, you can change the water. People can customize the way they want it.”

The shop also is expected to include an in-store lounge area, Noor said. Several booths are set up within the shop and Noor said he plans to install a TV so people can come in and smoke e-cigarettes, but not traditional cigarettes.

Vaping does not cause the same second-hand smoke issues that cigarettes do, Ransom said, but the nicotine put into the body can still be harmful.

“They are not regulated, so there really is no labeling saying this is what is in them, and no guarantee that what they say is in them is all that is in them,” she said. “We do know there is concentrated nicotine and nicotine is derived from tobacco and used as a pesticide, so it is a very dangerous chemical. It is a stimulant, so there are those risks of increasing heart rate and risks with that.

“You wouldn’t have the same second-hand smoke issues most likely,” Ransom said. “Right now, most policies don’t cover e-cigarettes. It is starting to be considered because of the increase in usage. I think it will be addressed in the future.”

The City of Ottawa does not have an ordinance regulating e-cigarettes, Carolyn Snethen, Ottawa city clerk, said Wednesday afternoon.

As for Noor, he plans to grow his new business.

“We just like to help,” he said. “If people want to quit smoking cigarettes, this is the place to come.”

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