As E-Cigarette Popularity Grows, So Does Controversy

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With lounges and parlors, electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity – but not without controversy.

“Being able to feel like you’re smoking without actually smoking. It’s like smoking and not waking up the next day with your lungs feeling like crap,” Vapor City’s Chris Mobley said.

E-cigarettes are hailed as a healthier way to get a nicotine fix. There’s no tobacco and manufacturers claim that there are no carcinogens.

“You’re not vaping on antifreeze. It’s a food-grade additive the FDA has approved,” a Vapor House employee who identified herself as Katie said. “To me, it’s a healthier alternative to smoking. I’m happy. I’d rather smell vapor than a cigarette.”

Makers say the liquid is made of four ingredients: propolene glycol, vegetable glycerin, natural or artificial flavoring and the optional nicotine.

As popular as they are, e-cigarettes aren’t without their critics.

“The more dangerous thing about e-cigarettes in a public space is changing the image of smoking and converting people who would otherwise not smoke to try these things,” Dr. Stephen Maxwell said. Maxwell is a lung cancer surgeon with Sutter Health.

Maxwell adds that the number of high school students using e-cigarettes as doubled since 2012. He fears that young people will move on to real cigarettes eventually.

The rise of e-cigarettes is also blamed for the increase in nicotine poisoning cases in children. In 2012, there were 400 such poisonings in the United States after kids apparently ingested the concentrated juice.

With flavors like ‘Donkey Kong,’ ‘Caramel Kona Milkshake’ and ‘Butterscotch,’ lawmakers say it’s perfectly clear who the industry is after. That is why State Assemblyman Roger Dickenson is proposing legislation that would prohibit buying e-cigarettes online.

“It makes sense to take precautionary approach, to make sure young people don’t have unfettered access to these kind of materials,” Dickenson said.

Dickonson’s bill is awaiting its first hearing.

You also have to be 18 to buy e-cigarettes, but there’s no law that explains where people can and can’t vape.

That allowed places like the Vapor House to appear. The Vapor House is a lounge that has one side for those who vape, and another for those who don’t, which is called the Pour House.

They also dismiss claims that the products are marketed toward minors.

“You have alcohol with apple flavoring,” Vapor House’s Sam Chao said. “There’s plenty of different flavoring. Our intention is not to target a younger crowd.”

E-cigarette user Alex Chiodo says he no longer smokes a pack a day, and that his life was changed for the better.

“It still is stuff going into your lungs that is not normally there, but it’s a choice you should be able to make as an adult,” Chiodo said.

In the first national study about e-cigarettes, two thirds of people surveyed said they’re fine if people use the products near them.

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