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Electronic Cigarettes Gaining Popularity

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The smoking ban in Monongalia County has been in effect for about a year, but preventing people from smoking indoors isn't stopping the addiction in general.

More unique ways to smoke are coming into play, like electronic cigarettes, or "e-cigs."

Electronic cigarettes are becoming more and more popular. You may have seen them on commercials or someone smoking one on the street.

Many locals couldn't be happier about the new technology, but others still have some doubts.

"Electronic cigarettes use a liquid, which contains flavoring and nicotine, which is heated up with a rechargeable battery that heats," said Shawn Dunn, whose store, Volcano WV, sells electronic cigarettes. "A heating element that vaporizes a small amount of the liquid so it creates a water vapor that looks like smoke."

Dunn was a smoker for 28 years before trying an e-cig two years ago. He said he hasn't touched a cigarette since.

However, the FDA has not approved electronic cigarettes, and medical professionals don't know the risks it has.

"It was rushed to market without any kind of clinical trials or without any kind of toxicity testing that we would normally have for a food or a drug product released in this country," said Catherine Whitworth, program coordinator for the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program, a joint program of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and the West Virginia Prevention Research Center. "But it was hurried to the market, and so what we know is that, we don't know a whole lot about the safety or the effectiveness."

Dunn said that he no longer has a "smoker's cough" and feels like he has more energy since he stopped smoking traditional cigarettes. He said that's not the only plus side.

"One of our bottles of E liquid, for example, the small bottle costs $12.99," Dunn said. "It will give you the same number of puffs as a carton of cigarettes."

Electronic cigarettes are also available with different nicotine levels. So if you are using the device to quit, you can lower the amount of nicotine the electronic cigarette gives you.

Whitworth said she would like to see the e-cig tested to see if it could be something that could help smokers quit.

"Until it has gone through an approval process where it is tested for safety, then I really can't say one way or the other," Whitworth said. "We just don't know and the FDA doesn't know, and neither does the CDC. But there are concerns that it does contain carcinogens. Whether it's safer, I just can't say."

The main thing to remember about an electronic cigarette is to do your research before beginning to use it.

Electronic cigarettes are also under the ban from smoking indoors in Monongalia County.

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