Puffs of preference: Students find alternatives to traditional cigarette smoking

Jose Lopez/The Et cetera
Jose Lopez/The Et ceteraBy Sidney Murillo

When business major Nicholas Wyse turned 18, he weighed 254 pounds and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. He decided it was time to change his lifestyle.
“I wanted to start doing martial arts and get into shape,” Wyse said. “I realized that cigarettes were in the way of that.”
Wyse lost 50 pounds in three months after switching to e-cigarettes, exercising regularly and eating a healthier diet.
“I am feeling pretty awesome now,” Wyse said. “So much energy is in me now. But I’m not stopping now.”
Wyse is among a growing number of people switching to e-cigarettes for health reasons. Not only are they tar-free, but they produce vapor rather than smoke, meaning they’re better for the environment and can also be smoked in restaurants.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that e-hookah and e-cigarette smokers are still at risk for the same kinds of diseases caused by cigarette smoking: oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the esophagus and reduced lung function. And there is an added risk.
“If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC.
An e-cigarette, or electronic cigarette, is approximately five inches long. It is a battery-powered device that is basically a smokeless cigarette. At the opposite end of the mouthpiece there is a dial showing the number of milligrams of nicotine in every puff. This level can be adjusted manually by the smoker.
The smoker places liquid nicotine into the tank, which serves as the mouthpiece, on the top of the device. The smoker inhales the nicotine and exhales vapor.
One Marlboro Red cigarette from a pack of 20 equals 1 milligram of nicotine. A typical e-cigarette contains 20 milligrams of nicotine per fill of liquid.
Another popular smoking option is an e-hookah, which is similar to an e-cigarette but is disposable.
“An e-hookah equals about three packs of cigarettes,” said Noor Chagani, owner of Tobacco City in Mesquite. “A lot of people have come by asking for the e-hookahs since January. Younger smokers come by looking for them. I guess it’s because hookahs aren’t as harmful as cigarettes,  and they’re more trendy and fruity than e-cigarettes.”
The electronic hookahs cost $8.62 each at Tobacco City, which is similar to one pack of American Spirit cigarettes.
E-cigarettes, which are refillable, can be purchased for $25 online. A 30-milliliter refill is $13.
An e-hookah allows 700 puffs and holds up to 19 milligrams of nicotine. An e-cigarette is rechargeable and can be filled with different flavors.
Wyse said he started off with sour apple as his first flavor.
“It’s smoother than a cigarette, and I can’t really tell the difference between the two when it comes to satisfaction,” he said. “There’s not the back burn [in your throat] with the e-cigarette.”
The e-hookah comes in a variety of flavors as well. At Tobacco City, Chagani has a display of apple cider, citrus berry and pina vino e-hookah under her counter.
“I enjoy e-hookahs, but I don’t think I’ll ever get into smoking cigarettes or anything like that,” nursing major Paisley Johnson said. “I like hookah because of the flavors, I guess. Plus I know that it’s safer than cigarettes, and there’s no burn to hookah, which is nice.”
Theater major Shannon Cox had smoked for 20 years when she decided she needed a change. She wanted to pursue acting and singing, and she realized that smoking cigarettes could prevent her from accomplishing her dreams.
She invested $124 in an e-cigarette called Vapor Essence. This included the cost of a USB connector, a charger, liquid nicotine and non-nicotine liquid.
She said this was a small price to pay compared to the thousands of dollars each year she spent purchasing cigarettes.
“I wanted a better life,” Cox said. “I feel so much better and I’m living so much more than when I was smoking cigarettes.”

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