E-Cigarettes, a Good Alternative?

Published 02/04 2014 05:55PM

Updated 02/05 2014 09:26AM

ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - Electronic cigarettes  billed as the healthier, less expensive alternative to cigarettes, and an effective way to give up tobacco. Are they?

Edie Mccloskey, from Gallitzin buys Southern Freeze Frost flavor refills for her electronic cigarettes. She says the device has helped her cut her nicotine intake by half 

"I  vape because smoking is really unhealthy," she says. "It's a safer altenrative to smoking."

"It is hard to quit smoking," Edie adds. "I  believe it is the nicotine that really gets you,  so being with the vape you can still have nicotine without all the harsh chemicals.

"I started out at 24, at the highest strength you can go and I'm  currently down to 12 so that's half way,  but I feel so much better and eventually I'll get there,  but right now I'm happy with what I'm doing."

What does her doctor think about her smoking cessation? "My doctor said well, hey whatever helps you quit."

"You call your e-cigarette a vape. You say are you vaping today, what are you vaping?" Holly Loupe and her husband Brennan own and operate Vape Vibe e-cigarette shops in Altoona and Johnstown. They offer nearly 50 flavors, everything from fruits and menthols, to  tobacco taste.

Holly says e-cigarettes helped her quit tobacco, and him, cut way back. Brennan says he was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day when he originally started with e-cigarettes. He still vapes, but at a low level of nicotine.

One customer, a 35-plus year smoker has him beat. She still vapes, but has gradually decreased her nicotine intake to zero. The industry claims and many e-cigarette users believe their vapes are safer than  tobacco.

Holly says, "if this is going to be an alternative that gets them away from tobcco use and knowingly eliminate things we know cause cancer I  think that's going to be a great step for them."  And she adds, "if we can give somebody  a pink battery that's going to make them happy and not think about buying their pack of Marlboros, then we feel like we've accomplished something."

But at the Lung Disesease Center of Central Pennsylvania, Dr. George Zlupko isn't so sure. He says he's researched e-cigarettes and found "in regular cigarettes there's about 4,000 compounds, of which 85 or so are carcinogens.  In e-cigarettes, at least one or two we know of are carciongenic. "

And that e-vapor? Dr Zlupko says it's not water vapor. It's propylene glycol, a compound considered safe in lotions and creams, but never tested as an inhalant.

He tells his patients using e cigarette, "you're doing this basically without any scientific knowledge I can give you on whether this is harmful or not harmful."

He doesn't balk at short term use as a way to get off tobacco, but says quitting overall would be best.

In his words, "if you're thinking about using it as a short term cessation program aide, such as patches and gum I really don't balk at that.  If  you're going  to tell me you're going  to use this instead of cigarettes for the rest of your life, you probably need to rethink that decision."

"You know, on some level I would have to agree with that," Holly says, "but  for some  tobacco smokers, they just feel like there's no hope. They've been smoking for so long, tried lozenges, they've tried prescription medicines, they've tried patches, they've  tried gum.  What do you do for that person?"

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says e-cigarettes haven't been fully studied so there's no scientific evidence on how safe they are or whether they have any benefits. There are plans to extend the agency's authority to regulate them.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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