This is now the 21st century, so just as many other aspects of the culture have changed to reflect new technology, it's time the smoking habit change as well. Enter the new, battery -powered "e-cigs" - which are devices that mimic the sensation of smoking of a real cigarette, without tobacco and without the combustion that fouls the air (and also risks fires in hyper-dry, tinder box areas like SE Colorado. The Black Forest fire may have been started accidentally by a careless smoker tossing his real cig out a car window).
The e-cigs, in contrast to combustion cigs, deliver their nicotine through a smoke like vapor, and when exhaled there is no raunchy, stale tobacco odor to make you gag. The good news is that e-cigs, according to a new report (CBS) this morning, have been on the market for 10 years and have only recently exploded. In 2011 sales were around $300 million, and in 2012 they doubled to $600 million. This year, according to market analysts, that number will most likely triple to nearly $2 billion.
Of course, this is nothing compared to the $80 b Americans continue to burn on traditional tobacco products, but it's a damned good start. (To show how fearful the major tobacco companies are, they've already initiated their own e-cig brands.) Most manufacturers, though they're not obliged to list ingredients since e-cigs aren't currently regulated by the FDA, list the main ingredients as: water, nicotine, glycerol, and propylene glycol- which is responsible for the exhaled smoke.
As for the Health establishment, their take so far is the "jury is still out" in terms of any health risks. Most of them, such as quoted on CBS this morning, are hoping the FDA will soon begin regulation. Meanwhile, one major manufacturer (of N-JOY) welcomes it and also welcomes the chance to make regular combustion cigs obsolete. According to the CEO, he wants to see his 3 and 6 year olds in a world where they can examine a book of ancient customs and inquire: 'Hey, dad! You actually used to light these things on fire and put 'em in your mouth?'
Actually, I used to do that too. In the 60s, I picked up the habit of smoking two packs of Marlboro 100s each day. I never noticed the foul odor and haze of smoke around me because, well, everyone else was doing it too! (Especially at the Oil Corporation I worked - taking a work break between my junior and senior year of university to earn extra $$) So, no biggie when you pumped the ciggy! But one day in mid- 1968, I awoke barely able to catch my breath, and rolled off my bed in a coughing fit. It was so frightening it prompted me to kick the habit cold turkey. The only tobacco product I've used since has been the odd cigarillo and that only maybe once or twice a year, if that often. (I haven't smoked one since three years ago).
Meanwhile, my brother John, recently laid to rest, might well have lived longer and had a better quality of life had he not been puffing cigarettes at the rate of 2-3 packs a day. We already know from research how combustion cigarettes basically destroy bodies, starting with the lungs (my cousin Jeff, not long ago died of lung cancer, also from a smoking habit), as well as blood vessels narrowing them to the point strokes are almost inevitable, if smoking is done long enough and intensely. (I regard anything more than a half pack a day as "intensely"). Kidneys, heart can also be seriously affected, and smokers are also more prone to a host of other health ills, including diabetes, bronchitis, and assorted cancers.
While the jury may be out on e-cigs health-wise, it's a no brainer that they simply can't be as bad as regular cigs. You can't tell me that a battery-operated device that produces some "vapors" is remotely as bad as a burning tobacco "stick" that spews its noxious and toxic fumes all around, affecting everyone in the vicinity with second hand smoke - which we now know is as bad as the first hand crap. So in that sense, at the very least others in a closed surrounding or home won't have to inhale the stuff.
Thankfully, most eating and other establishments in the U.S. (including movies theaters) have foreclosed the option of smoking which gives the rest of us a break. We don't have to smell overpowering tobacco smoke while eating our 'Outback' steak, nor do we have to tolerate a haze of interfering smoke and gag while trying to watch a movie. Having them abolished from airlines is also good, removing that fire risk.
As for me, I've no doubt that with my incipient lung problems and issues I'd long since been dead if I'd continued puffing.
If they are wise, current combustion smokers ought to look at e-cigs at least as a reasonable option, and perhaps even a chance to improve their health instead of adding to woes. If we see the traditional sales plummet as the e-cig sales soar, this will be a good sign.
And maybe, at some future point, no 'cigs' will be needed, e-, or regular!