E-cigarettes stir controversy about health benefits
Electronic cigarettes have steamrolled their way into mainstream culture.
The trend has become a popular alternative to traditional cigarettes, and smokers are even starting to switch to what is called "vaping."
E-cigarettes, vaporizers and vapes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, but they all serve the same function of simulating a cigarette or other form of smoked tobacco.
But do they really work?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes have yet to be fully studied, and there's still information that remains unknown. Researchers and consumers are still unaware of the potential long-term and short-term effects, amount of nicotine or other chemicals that are inhaled or potential benefits of e-cigarettes.
Mary Schmidt-Owens, UCF's associate director of medical health administration, is in charge of UCF's smoke-free policy and said it also prohibits e-cigarettes.
"Supporters claim that electronic-smoking devices release 'nothing but water vapor.' However, water is not an ingredient in electronic smoking devices. The 'smoke' you see is not a 'vapor,' but rather it is an aerosol containing toxins like nicotine, carcinogens, formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, etc.," she said. "The concern is that electronic smoking devices are unregulated products that have no requirements for ingredient disclosure, accurate labeling or quality control."
E-cigarettes carry the same habit-forming behaviors as any other form of smoked tobacco, and there is no statistical evidence that supports the claim that they can help a smoker successfully quit. Owens said they are not proven smoking cessation tools, but rather an alternative nicotine-delivery system that either maintains or restores the habit.
Despite the lack of research and potential health concerns, smokers who have made the switch claim that something about e-cigarettes does work as an alternative to smoking.
Dell Lovejoy, a UCF alumnus, made the switch to e-cigarettes in 2013 after smoking for more than 23 years. He was then inspired to open his own shop, Lovejoy Vapor, in Winter Park, which celebrated its one-year anniversary July 11.
"I tried the patch and gum [and] it simply did not work for me," he said.
Lovejoy said he has noticed a positive change in his health since he made the switch to his vaporizer.
His blood pressure and resting heart rate have both decreased and his breathing has improved, which has given him the ability to do things he couldn't do before.
After about three months of vaping, he received a bad batch of e-liquid, the liquid used to fill e-cigarettes. He and his wife — who had taken pre-pharmacy classes at UCF — decided to look into creating their own type of e-liquid to ensure quality control. Their own brand was formed in 2013, and Lovejoy's wife currently makes all the e-liquids in a dedicated lab.
"The best feeling I get is when a lifelong smoker, particularly the elderly, come back a week or so later with tears in their eyes asking us, 'Where was this 40 years ago?'" Lovejoy said.
Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @atticus_adrift or email him at EricG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.