Picture Audrey Hepburn, the beautiful, classy movie star, sitting to eat (perhaps breakfast?), walking through a crowded party or sitting in the backseat of a car. What is the consistent image? Take a look at the 1961 film classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a role she called “the jazziest of my career.” What is the one thing that is undeniably classy and memorable about her role in this and other films? It is her extra long cigarette holder. How was the iconic Hepburn, or Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and other classic “Bogie” films, as well as many, many other movie stars of the golden era of Hollywood, allowed to be shown smoking in public virtually anywhere they desired? They, and the public at large, were unaware of the dangers of smoking. The deadly dangers.
Now, you can sit down to dinner or cozy up at your favorite bar and channel your inner Audrey Hepburn. Heads might turn, but you will be completely within legal limits. Cigarettes indoors, in public? How can that be? It might not be at the end of an extra long cigarette holder, like the one Hepburn favored, but it will be completely healthy and harmless. Electronic cigarettes are the newest trend, and a very good one at that. What better way to quit smoking than to continue going through the motions without any actual tobacco intake? Well, as long as it’s an e-cigarette, you can.
According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, approximately 25.6 million men and 22.6 million women in the United States are smokers. Would many of these Americans quit smoking if it wasn’t a constant, difficult struggle to do so? Sources say yes.
E-cigarettes are the new electronic smoking alternative that look and feel like real cigarettes, and allow smokers to get the sensation of smoking without any tobacco. E-cigarettes have no carcinogens. Instead of burning tobacco or a comparable smoking product, the e-cigarette atomizes a liquid into a tar-free and odorless vapor. It is up to the smoker whether the cigarette’s liquid contains nicotine or not.
The device is a battery-operated, long-shaped tube. Most of these cigarettes mimic the appearance of a cigarette or cigar, giving the e-cigarette the most authentic look possible. Others look like a ballpoint pen (biros). While there are disposable e-cigarettes on the market, the majority are reusable and come with replaceable and refillable cartridges.
An electronic cigarette is broken down into several components. The mouthpiece, often referred to as the cartridge, is fixed to the end of a tube. There is a small cup inside the mouthpiece that contains an absorbent material that is drenched in a liquid. This liquid contains varying levels of nicotine, if any at all. The cartridge can be refilled or replaced once it’s empty.
The cartridge contains a liquid referred to as e-liquid. The e-liquid can contain hundreds of flavors, including menthol. For smokers who want nicotine, they can get an e-liquid containing nicotine that has been dissolved in propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin — both common food additives. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are recognized as one of its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substances. There are no known serious side effects with these ingredients and they have been used since the 1950s inside nebulizers and asthma inhalers.
The battery in most e-cigarettes is a lithium-ion battery and is rechargeable. The battery powers the heating element, called an atomizer, and allows the liquid to heat up and vaporize. Once vaporized, the liquid can be breathed in — inhaled.
In addition to the cartridge, there can also be a cartomizer. A cartomizer is a one piece unit combining the cartridge with the atomizer. It is screwed into the battery and used only once. It is meant to be disposed of afterward, although, some people do refill them. Cartomizers are the optimum choice for beginners because the cartomizers are sold prefilled with the flavor of choice.
The newest versions of e-cigarettes have a sensor that automatically starts the heating method when the device is sucked on. Older versions use a button that needs to be pressed in during inhalation. Most versions, especially the newer ones, have an LED, light emitting diode, that lights up when the device is made active to simulate the burning tip of a cigarette.
More research needs to be conducted, however, to test the safety of electronic cigarettes. The FDA has refused some entry of shipments of these products coming into the United States since the components of e-cigarettes have not yet been tested for safety. E-cigarette buyers will have to provide customs with a letter explaining the electronic cigarettes are for personal use. “We basically don’t know anything about them [e-cigarettes],” Dr. Richard D. Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic said. “They’ve never been tested for safety or efficacy to help people stop smoking.”
All the same, e-cigarettes are the latest trend and can even be seen on the big screen. Johnny Depp “smokes” electronic cigarettes in the film “The Tourist.” Depp plays Frank, an American tourist in Italy, who meets Elise (Angelina Jolie). Depp’s character explains the benefits of e-cigarettes throughout the movie to Angelina Jolie’s character. On a much smaller screen, e-cigarettes have been seen on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Whatever your motivation for trying out electronic cigarettes, it should be acknowledged that the choice to move toward a tobacco-free lifestyle is a difficult, but important decision. E-cigarettes can, and have, helped smokers quit completely. When reformed smokers feel a nicotine craving, they can “light up” an e-cigarette, feel the simulated sensation, and curb the craving.
Since e-cigarettes produce no second hand smoke, your neighbors and friends will be happy that you chose the alternative method of smoking. Smokers will no longer have to struggle with the health and social stigmas associated with smoking. One day, they will not have to struggle with smoking at all.
For now, sit down at your favorite bar, take out your electronic cigarette and try to remember how Hepburn did it. You might get some unwelcome, uneducated glares, but let that be your cue to start educating others.