North Texas Daily

E-Cigarettes: Trend or new best friend?

E-Cigarettes: Trend or new best friend?

E-Cigarettes: Trend or new best friend?
June 13
13:07 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

The first time Miguel Martinez realized he was hooked to cigarettes was after he and his mother moved to Dallas.

“I rarely got to see my dad then,” he said. “And when I did, we didn’t really talk much.”

As a child, Martinez recalled his father being the sole parent as his mother worked day and night to provide for the family. On certain occasions, his father would take him in the car for a ride and Martinez would watch him as he rolled down the window and lit a cigarette, the smoke escaping from his mouth.

It was this habit that got Martinez into trouble with his mother one day when she caught him walking around the house with a piece of rolled paper dangling from his lips, the tip painted orange.

“After that, I’d creep around our house looking for where my dad hid his cigarettes,” he said. “But I don’t feel a physical need to smoke them; it’s always been a mental thing with me.”

Now, Martinez and his father see each other irregularly, and when he manages to visit, there are lulls in their conversations.

“I always had to create the scenario, but the only one that ever worked was joining him outside to smoke a cigarette because that’s the only time we really got to talk,” Martinez said.

The social aspect, added to what became a habit between him and his father, drove Martinez to a state of dependence from which he hopes to escape.

“I smoke when I read, when I study, when I drink coffee,” he said. “I don’t want to have smoker lungs, so I’m transitioning.”

To electronic cigarettes, that is – and Martinez is not the only one. In a February 2013 press release, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that about one in five adult cigarette smokers in the U.S. have used an e-cigarette. Also last year, Wells Fargo Securities reported that the e-cigarette industry was valued at more than $1 billion across both online and offline channels. And with more people switching from regular cigarettes to their nicotine-producing counterparts, the popularity of e-cigarettes has undoubtedly skyrocketed.

Denton, in the same way, is no stranger to the device.

“We’re starting to see a proliferation of e-cigarettes and even vapor shops throughout the city, so there’s an indication that there might be an increase in trend,” said Lindsey Baker, Denton city council’s public information and intergovernmental relations officer.

Among those who have seen the sudden expansion of the e-cigarette market is The Zebra’s Head, Texas’ first smoke shop, located on Fry Street since 1966. Aaron Poret, who works at the shop as a retail trainer, said that the e-cigarette business is not only on the rise, but also helping Dentonites quit the use of tobacco and other potentially harmful chemicals.

“It’s definitely a safer alternative and a much more economical alternative than regular cigarettes,” he said. “The initial investment is a lot more, but when you look at it, instead of buying a $7 pack of cigarettes a day, you’re buying a $7 bottle of liquid per week.”

However, not all sources agree. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there remains inconclusive research on the potential benefits and risks of e-cigarettes. The agency in April announced a plan to regulate e-cigarettes by requiring manufacturers to label the devices with health warnings and banning sales to minors.

“We’ve all seen studies and indications about whether or not e-cigarettes are good for you, but there’s still no definitive evidence in terms of what’s in it,” Baker said.

As the key ingredient in e-cigarettes, e-liquids produce vapor through a solution of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and polyethylene glycol. Mixed with an assortment of flavors from pineapple and cherry to bubble gum and honeysuckle, e-liquids can also vary in terms of nicotine content.

“A lot of people come in to buy e-cigarettes even without nicotine and use them like candy,” Poret said. “They basically smoke flavored air.”

Martinez, who admits his loyalty to Marlboro, said that trying the variety of e-liquid flavors makes him eager to fully transition to e-cigarette smoking.

“The fruity-flavored ones are what I’m gonna be getting,” he said, emphasizing his preference for strawberries in vapor form. “But the habit isn’t going anywhere.”

Featured Image: Andrew Ashworth tries a new e-liquid called “High Times.” He got the new flavor from a smoke shop, also called High Times, just off the Square. Photo illustration courtesy of Ryan Bibb.

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