E-cigarettes: Just a fad or here to stay?

As 20,000 thousand people cheered on the Mustangs during the homecoming game in September, Aubrey Flanigan and her father, Michael Flanigan, sat on the stadium lawn puffing on e-cigarettes.

Aubrey Flanigan, a 30-year-old freelance advertiser who graduated from SMU seven years ago, said she smoked for four years. She started smoking when she transferred to SMU from Collin County Community College.

“I chose to quit smoking for my health and use the e-cig to quit,” she said.

Flanigan and her father said they switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes after reading about the health risks. But Michael Flanigan said that he smoked for forty years before quitting.

“Everybody told me it was no good, so I switched to these about two years ago,” he said while clutching his red e-cigarette to his side.

Studies show that some people use e-cigarettes in addition to regular cigarettes for that added “nicotine buzz.” Other users choose the e-cigarette instead of regular cigarettes, and some began “vaporizing” with the advent of the e-cig trend.

Proponents of e-cigs argue they are a safer alternative to tobacco products and help many smokers quit conventional cigarette usage.

According to the June Reuters/Ipsos poll, 10 percent of adults are now vaping, and 15 percent of these e-cigarette users are under the age of 40. A 2013 poll by the same group showed 18 percent of Americans smoked traditional cigarettes.

Today even fewer Americans smoke traditional cigarettes. The New York Times reported in 2015 that 42 million American adults are still smoking, with up to 480,000 of them dying as a result each year.

As conventional smoking slowly becomes taboo with many establishments ban smoking, the usage of e-cigarettes and vaporizers are on the rise. Seventy percent of vape users began this year alone, and the numbers keep growing as vape shops enter the market.

About 15,000 shops opened over the last few years according to most recent estimates. Within the past year, there was a $1 billion rise in sales.

Among the e-cigarettes main ingredients are propylene glycol, water vapor and/or vegetable glycerin and vapers can choose the amount of nicotine up to 36mg.

Many smokers find the ability to choose the amount of nicotine appealing, and some even choose to smoke water vapor e-cigs that contain 0mg nicotine. Aubrey Flanigan said that she finds 16mg to be the most satisfying.

A 2013 University of California research project into tobacco related diseases found that some of these vapor fluids contain unknown ingredients that are often harmful in FDA regulated items such as anti-freeze.

The FDA has been researching the potential risks of e-cigarettes, the amounts of nicotine and chemicals in them, and whether these devices are gateways into riskier behaviors. They have yet to be regulated, even though the FDA has authority over tobacco products. In 2009 they passed prohibitory rules that stop e-cigarette companies from claiming reduced-harm without serious testing.

Smoking e-cigarettes may be helpful for those trying to quit cigarette smoking, however some e-cigarette users aren’t giving up the regular cigarettes.

“It is probably a good start in quitting cigarette smoking if that is your goal, not a good option if it just becomes another habit,” said Linda O’Toole, a directive behavioral therapist.

Lately many buildings have regulations and codes that exclude cigarette smoking. At SMU, Dallas Hall has a sign that states, “No smoking within 25 feet of the back entrance”

The Continental, a residential building in the Mercantile Place on Main complex in downtown Dallas has banned both cigarette and vape usage entirely. Despite the ban, there was a man recently smoking a Camel cigarette at the complex. He declined to give his name because he was smoking on the rooftop lounge, where smoking is banned.

He said that for him, the feel of the cigarettes and the physicality of the box itself are most important. In trying to quit smoking he found that e-cigarettes gave him odd buzzes, and believes that the practice is just a fad.

Tell us what you think.