Call it E-Puffing, But Don't Do It Indoors | NBC Connecticut

Call it E-Puffing, But Don't Do It Indoors

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It looks like a cigarette, but it's electronic.

    You’ve no doubt sent an e-mail, heard of e-cards and maybe even read an e-book, but you might not have heard of another “e-“ one some say could help you ultimately kick a dirty habit to the curb.

    They're called e-cigarettes and UConn University student Rick Wilkman is using them to help quit smoking regular cigarettes.

    "Whenever I do get a craving, I'll use this, have a few drags and then it'll just be like satisfying my nicotine craving," he said.

    For those of you who are wondering how they work, you attach the cartridge, which comes in a bunch of flavors, like coffee and apple and the battery, which gets charged through your USB port.

    You can also refill the cartridges with something called e-liquid.

    When Wilkman puffs, it looks like is smoking, but only vapor comes out.

    We asked experts if e-cigs are safer than old-fashioned cigs.

    Michelle Marichal, of the American Lung Association, said the jury’s still out.

    "We're reluctant because there have been no studies done except for one small one by the FDA, and that was an initial study and what it found is that these e-cigarettes contain carcinogens. They contain toxic chemicals like those found in antifreeze."

    NBC Connecticut dug deeper and asked UConn University Dr. Cheryl Oncken about those chemicals.

    "They have this propalene glycol in them in the part that's vaporized, and even though that's a chemical that’s in foods, it's not known what happens when people inhale that. So the problem is we just don’t have enough information," she said.

    Online retailer E-Cigarettes Choice says its e-cigs have 4,000 less chemicals than tobacco.

    They also say smokers can save between $30 and almost $3,000 a year over smoking the old-fashioned way.

    But Dr. Oncken says there’s a bigger price to pay.

    "I don't know what adult who is already addicted to cigarettes wants to pick up a bubble gum flavor e-cigarette. So it's obvious that it's a ploy to get younger people to start smoking these e-cigarettes," she said.

    And while the Surgeon General is pretty clear that smoking regular cigarettes can cause lung cancer, heart disease and more, it might seem like e-cigarettes are a pretty good alternative to help people wean off them.

    But, are they better than the spray, the patch or the gum? Dr. Oncken says no.

    "What I would tell people is to use the nicotine we know is safe," she said.

    Wilkman says they help him to smoke fewer regular cigarettes, but he admits he is still smoking.

    So, if it seems like the experts we spoke to aren’t hot on the idea of using those e-cigarettes, listen to this, the American Association of Public Health Physicians just announced they think e-cigs could save 4 million smoker’s lives within the next 20 years.

    Nonetheless, a New York senator is trying to ban the sale of e-cigs in New York, no word on whether a lawmaker here in Connecticut will follow suit.

    Call it another page in an e-controversy.