If you want to see a crowd, check out any of the growing businesses in the New Orleans area that sell e-cigarettes.
“It’s a big business,” said Vincent LaBella from his store, Vapors Inn, in Metairie.
Customers lined the counter of LaBella’s store. Each of them shopping for the liquid flavor and potency of their choice. The liquids contain nicotine which is heated by the e-cig device and turned into steam.
Every person we spoke with at the store hoped they could use the electric devices to replace traditional cigarettes.
“90% of the people that come here, the quit cold turkey day one,” LaBella said.
Earlier that same day, five former surgeons general and the Action Surgeon General for the United States were scheduled to spend the day participating in an anti-smoking event on the campus of Xavier University.
The event marked the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General report on smoking. All day, speakers and panels addressed ways to prevent smoking, especially among young people.
While fans of e-cigarettes say they’re not as harmful as regular smokes, Xavier faculty member, and former surgeon general, Dr Regina Benjamin, had a warning for people.
“I don’t tell a heroin addict to take a little heroin,” Benjamin said. “The e-cigarette is just another way to deliver nicotine.”
Former surgeon general Dr. Jocelyn Elders added, “I think we know we’re creating nicotine addicts,” regarding the e-cigarettes.
But the doctors’ biggest concern is the perception that the e-cigarettes are cool or fashionable.
“The big issue is getting young people to see it as glamorous, to glamorize smoking again, and then they’re hooked on nicotine. What comes next? Cigarettes,” said Benjamin.
LaBella says, yes, the e-cigarettes contain nicotine. But he insists, despite the doctors’ claim, that the vapor isn’t as bad for smokers as traditional cigarettes because it doesn’t contain nearly as many chemicals. He also says some of his customers have been able to slowly choose product with reduced nicotine.
“Over the weeks, they’ll ween themselves down to where they’re vaping zero nic, and then they figure out we don’t need that at all,” he said.
The doctors say there is no medical research to say whether the e-cigs can be used as a safer alternative for adult smokers or if they can help people kick the nicotine habit.