Are E-Cigarettes Making it Cool to Smoke Again?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Catharine Candelario, an employee at the newly opened Henley Vaporium, vapes, or smokes an electronic cigarette, on December 19, 2013 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

For the first time since 1970, a new kind of cigarette ad has found its way onto TV screens in homes across the country. It features an actor blowing out a cloud of vapor, telling consumers they don't have to smell like an ashtray anymore if they're smoking an e-cigarette.

The marketing is pretty clear—cigarettes are bad, and e-cigarettes are good.

In a sleek rechargeable metal tube, e-cigarettes offer a hit of nicotine without the tar, smoke or other harsh chemicals associated with the real thing. There’s no federal law regulating where e-cigarettes can be smoked, but some places like New York City are banning them anywhere smoking is prohibited.

So where can you smoke e-cigs? E-smokers are now taking refuge in “vape bars,” where you can walk in, take a seat at the counter and allow a “vapologist” to guide you through the chalkboard full of hardware and flavors: Disposable or rechargeable? Bubble gum or Cinnabon? The options are endless.

To learn more about where the e-cigarette movement is headed, The Takeaway visited The Henley Vaporium, a vape bar co-owend by Talia Eisenberg and Peter Denholtz in New York City's Soho neighborhood.

"It's a different experience of bringing people together, and it's a healthier experience," says Denholtz, who smoked for 35 years before switching to e-cigarettes. "I'm happy to have a better way to put nicotine into my body."

Denholtz adds that he doesn't encourage non-nicotine users or people who have never smoked to start up, but he views e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative for those who do suffer from nicotine addiction.

E-Cigarettes & Health

For the 45 million smokers in the United States, the switch to e-cigs could mean vast improvements for their health.

But what about the health of the teens who have never smoked before? Or the health of ex-smokers who haven’t taken a puff in years? And what’s in these e-cigs anyway?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Significant questions remain about how to assess the potential toxicity and health effects of the more than 250 electronic cigarette brands." There are also questions about how e-cigarettes should be both advertised and regulated.

The Takeaway sat down with Michael Eriksen, founding dean of the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, and former director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

Under Eriksen’s leadership, GSU recently received a $19 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration to study why people choose to try e-cigarettes and what using them really means for your body.

"No one quite knows what to expect," says Eriksen. "You have a bit of a conundrum—e-cigarettes are, almost without exception, safer to use for a smoker than traditional smoking, but that doesn't mean they're safe. That's what the concern is—people will use e-cigarettes on an increased basis, [leading to] more exposure to nicotine among kids and possibly ex-smokers."

Eriksen says that technically, while e-cigarettes look like medical devices, they're considered to be tobacco products by a court of law because they do contain nicotine, which is derived from tobacco, even though e-cigarettes contain no tobacco. He adds that while nicotine itself is not benign, it is much better than cigarette smoke, which is the main reason why traditional cigarette smoking can lead to death.

According to Eriksen, the ideal e-cigarette user is a current tobacco smoker that is having difficulty quitting on their own. He says that e-cigarettes can be a tool for tobacco smokers to eventually kick their nicotine addiction.

"We certainly don't want people who are not using nicotine—like teens or non-smokers—to start to use nicotine," says Eriksen. "It is a stimulant, and in larger doses it is toxic. Nicotine is extraordinarily addicting and still of concern."

Eriksen says that e-cigarettes are adding, once again, a new allure and prestige to the act of smoking.

"The marketing of it is of particular concern because not only is it glamorizing and in some ways sexualizing e-cigarettes, there is a concern that it is going to renormalizing smoking," he says. "A lot of the progress we've made around the world is to denormalize smoking, from it becoming a popular and attractive thing to do to in some ways a deviant behavior. The way e-cigarettes are being marketed, it really may have the effect of making not only e-cigarette use but smoking in general more desirable."

With GSU's $19 million grant from the FDA, Eriksen and his team plan to investigate how people make a decision to smoke either traditional or e-cigarettes, in addition to the factors that lead people to stop smoking completely.

"The data is showing rapid and incredible market penetration, both among adults and among teenagers," says Eriksen of e-cigs. "The latest data from the CDC has shown that the usage of e-cigarettes among high school students to have doubled between 2011 and 2012. Now, about 10 percent of high school students report having tried e-cigarettes—this is at a time when traditional smoking of cigarettes is at the lowest levels in a generation. What we're seeing among youth is less cigarette smoking and more use of e-cigarettes."

Erisken estimates that about 8 percent of all U.S. adults have tried e-cigarettes, along with about 1/3 of smokers.

"There's been really remarkable uptake of e-cigarettes over the last few years," he says.


Peter Denholtz, Talia Eisenberg and Michael Eriksen

Produced by:

Eric Baker and Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael


Vince Fairchild

Comments [18]


Technology has moved to an good extend that now it also helps people to get back into life. E-cigarettes are devices that allow users to inhale nicotine via vaporised liquid, which can be flavored. In some cases they’re refillable, and in others they’re designed to be disposable. Its so easy that now you can Buy e Cig Mods from online too. Stores like Vaping Zone gives the best E Cigarette with great discounts and also in multiple color carry cases to save up to 50%. Quit smoking in an easy ways.

Nov. 15 2014 01:58 AM
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Apr. 21 2014 10:39 AM
Alina from Denver, CO

I don't think that e-cigarettes are making it cool again to smoke, I do believe its more about being healthier and making the right choice for your health. Yes there is still nicotine in it, but tobacco products have way more stuff in it. I have tried V2Cigs, Green Smoke, and Simplemist. V2Cigs are okay, I do think they are a little over rated,I did like Green Smoke, and Simplemist a lot more, their e-cigarettes taste amazing, and I have noticed that their batteries in e-cigs last longer.

Feb. 16 2014 06:52 PM
smokinghot from Atlanta, GA

Just so everyone know, there is a insane sale happening at V2 Cigs you can get 58% OFF starter kits! I've never seen this before so I thought I would let you know. Just use coupon code RESOLUTION2014

Jan. 30 2014 06:42 PM

Dr. Ross' comment about needing to know the larger context of the data presented on the number of teens who used e-cig's last year, doubled from the number who began to use cigarettes the year before, a year counted as an "all-time-low" for new teen smokers, is crucial to any substantive discussion of the risks or protective factors in using e-cigs or vapor pipes for marijuana. The fundamental harm reduction rules for public health remain useful for perspective: educate people with fully contextualized data, never promote any kind of smoking, but for those who do go in that direction, teach them how to do the least amount of harm to themselves and others. And, anyone who blows paper cigarette smoke or e-cig smoke around babies should be ashamed of themselves in the 21st century no less. Less judgment more facts.

Jan. 28 2014 08:04 AM
Marilou Hall from Cocoa Beach FL

I don't smoke. I have never smoked, but my objection to smoking in public is the second hand health threat and the odor. Neither of these factors is part of the e- cigarette experience for those who do not use the product. I feel that the laws of this country should not be involved in regulation of this product. As a society, we should not choose to make more laws to restrict personal choices which may or may not harm anyone but the user. It is not as if the product, used responsibly, is poisoness, anymore than coffee, chocolate, or a thousand other products or activities might be if not used responsibly. There are also hundreds of behaviors we hope our children will avoid or engage in responibly. 'Just say no' doesn't work as a model for teenagers. Banning e cigarettes will certainly not prevent their use, in fact, probably will enhance the mystique. And the 19 million dollars to study this? I am all for funding scientific research, absolutely, but I cannot help believe that the conclusions of this study have already been decided, now all that remains is collecting the appropriate data to support the decision to legislate human behavior.

Jan. 27 2014 08:37 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

The most alarming combustion products and un-combusted aromatics in tobacco smoke are surely also present in cannabis smoke, but in other venues of the media, cannabis liberation is universally celebrated (in the absence of any discussion of the effects of second-hand cannabis smoke). Good grief, who cares?

But at the same time, concern over e-cigarettes has lead their nascent industry to market their product as

1) propylene glycol (an organic compound)
2) "vegetable" glycerine "an organic matter" (duh; glycerine, an organic compound)
3) water (NOT organic!)
4) nicotine (an organic compound; known to be addictive)
5) "flavoring" (who knows how many different organic compounds)

in effect, employing a "back-association" of the phony-baloney "good" connotation of the word "organic" from the phony-baloney "organic" food and social critique sideshow - *backwards* onto substances and their combustion products that are of highly questionable safety precisely because they unabashedly ARE volatile "organic" compounds - in order to confer benign "organic" affect.

Whew! What a contortion! What a comical spectacle.

Are people who claim to be educated utterly and universally innocent of even a HINT of understanding of the physical world that might be obtained along with a "C" in high school chemistry? YES.

Jan. 27 2014 04:02 PM
Allen cohen from upper west

Once again I am bothered by NPR's failure to look at the info on their own past reports;

I remember an NPR interview about how harmful cigarettes are with a leading research scientist, who talked about the amazing scientific knowledge we have about the great benefits of nicotine;

metabolically and neurological it has numerous benefits; and
essentially he said if the smoke didn't kill you, he'd recommend it as a wonder-drug!

Jan. 27 2014 03:33 PM
Lisa from Honolulu, Hawaii

What annoys me is the attitude that ecig people in my area have about where is it appropriate to light up. They think they can light up indoors and/or blow smoke in my kid's faces. At least old-fashioned cigarette people are apologetic and try to turn their heads and blow in the other direction. There is still lots of steam-laden nicotine that is inhaled second-hand that my kids don't need, and there is no studies yet that doesn't prove that the super hot exhaled steam is not a vector for cold or flu viruses. The kids can smell the flavored ecig steam, and at 5 and 2 years old, can't tell the difference between ecigs and regular cigarettes or their smoke. They don't understand how one can be good and the other bad for you. And frankly, I don't understand either, and as a parent, I have to teach them that any addiction to nicotine is bad. I don't care what other people do to their own bodies, but for the sake of the kids and non-smokers, second-hand ecig steam still has nicotine, it still smells (yes, I smelled it yesterday at a kid's birthday party!) and should be treated the same as second-hand cigarette smoke. Hawaii bans cigarette smoking indoors and within 20 feet of doorways. I think my state is working towards that direction for ecigs, but it's not there yet.

Jan. 27 2014 02:55 PM
joe from Seattle

I smoked for 19 years and quit 6 years ago, a recent trip to India brought me back to smoking, mainly Bidi's which are natural folded leaf but filterless cigarillo-like experience, which eventually lead to hand rolling tobacco and eventually 55c a pack "Gold-Leaf" brand cigarettes. When I returned to the US the price of regular smokes here just proved too much and just three packs in I switched to a disposable e-ciggarette and the price of that pushed me into buying a battery "mod" and a e-liquid tank which I've been using for the last 4-5 months.
Theres no question about it, vaping is vastly superior to conventional cigarettes, but its a complete falsehood to believe that its good for you on any level. Its Nicotine, which is a poison, and the rest is glycerine made my god-knows-who and what exactly is put in it. It still makes my heart race, and it still has an effect on my health and my lungs. I know it and I can feel it. I am currently hovering around the 18mg level on most of the e-liquids I buy, because getting anything less then that is just hard to find, and I find myself doing it more anyway. Though really, I would like to kick it again and get back to my life. The problem is I just love the feeling. If there was a nicotine free version that was regularly available then I might be pressed to go that direction.

Jan. 27 2014 01:26 PM
Sheree from Salem, Oregon

Maybe instead of looking at the e-cig phenomenon, we should instead study how to get humans to not want to be such sheep when it comes to adopting new trends. This tendency toward "social sheepness" is the underlying problem in so many social issues, especially for young people. If we could find a way make people less responsive to the desire to fit in, we could solve a lot of social issues--though it might not be very good for our economy!

Jan. 27 2014 12:36 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The takeaway about e-cigarettes got spun out of control in my head, once the issue about other liquid drugs being substituted for liquid tobacco got brought up!

I bet vapor marihuana will be a big fad and is someone's "non-pipe dream:" (you wouldn't want to call it a "pipe dream, but a "non-pipe dream"):

"Liquid Sky" would be a good name of a chain of liquid pot vaporizing bars...or a great hipster (ironic) name would be "Vapid."
I know I am hitting hard on bad puns this morning. I must need a hit of liquid coffee this morning.

Jan. 27 2014 11:49 AM
Gil Ross, M.D. ACSH from New York City

It's not surprising that a veteran of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health would be purveying the same dangerously distorted alarmism as the boss-man there, Dr. Tom Frieden. Those scary "teen use doubled" about e-cigarettes the CDC has been trumpeting since September are a small part of the whole story: the rest of the data has been carefully concealed and air-brushed to conform to the official party line, always harping on the "dangers" of e-cigs and the "we don't know what's in them" and the "protect our children from 'smoke'" dogma.
The FACTS are these: almost all the teens who vaped did so trying to escape from real cigarettes, just like adults (did you know that many teens smoke!?). The total number who experimented with e-cigs was minuscule, and the CDC counted ANY use of e-cigs in the "past 30 days" just like daily use. This is simply an unethical, distorted picture, manipulated to promote their agenda. "Dangers"? From what? Toicological analysis has shown no health threats from e-cig vapor chemicals (note: nicotine is addicted, but that's why smokers use e-cigs to help them quit). And at least one study has shown that teens use e-cigs as a gateway AWAY from cigarettes, not into them.
Gil Ross MD/ (See our "Nicotine and Health" video:

Jan. 27 2014 11:05 AM
Sam Winston from Detroit, Michigan

where are the weed smokers getting their disses in on these addicts?

the tobacco industries is one of the main groups in our way of legalization.

Jan. 27 2014 09:51 AM
Sam Winston from Detroit, Michigan

people understand nicotine, cigarettes, etc is one of the worst chemicals available on the market right now?

it's compared to heroin and cocaine. sort of hardcore.

Jan. 27 2014 09:20 AM
Sam Winston from Detroit, Michigan

e-cancer? nah, just give me just h3tty nugz breh.

Jan. 27 2014 09:11 AM

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