Attorney general disputes claim that smoking device safer than real thing.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on consumers and retailers Tuesday to avoid electronic cigarettes, discounting claims that the devices are safer than real cigarettes.
The e-cigarettes, as they are known, are powered by batteries and produce a mist containing nicotine and propylene glycol, an organic compound. Users inhale the mist, satisfying their craving for nicotine.
”I will vigorously fight to ban e-cigarettes, unless approved by FDA, and any attempt to retail the devices in Connecticut, as well as work with federal authorities to regulate Internet sales,” Blumenthal said at a press conference in Hartford.
He cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s finding last month that two brands of e-cigarettes, Smoking Everywhere and NJoy, contain known carcinogens. An antifreeze ingredient, diethylene glycol, was found in a Smoking Everywhere cartridge.
Despite such warnings, some users continue to swear by the devices.
Jennifer Jarvis, 24, of New London, credits e-cigarettes with enabling her to break a 12-year-old smoking habit.
”I tried everything – patches, the gum – and I always went back to cheap cigarettes within a week,” she said. “I’ve been using the e-cig since June and haven’t touched a cigarette except to see what it would be like. I couldn’t stand the smell. It was nasty.”
Jarvis, who was recently laid off, said she initially invested $58 plus shipping on e-cigarette equipment, including a charger, two batteries, two “atomizers,” which heat the liquid, and 10 cartridges. She also bought two bottles of liquid, which she has yet to use up, she said.
The devices are available online and at some mall kiosks, though not in Connecticut.
Stephen Benitez, also 24, said he was looking for a less expensive alternative to smoking when his research led him to the device.
”I actually believe they are a safer alternative,” said Benitez, a poker dealer at Foxwoods Resort Casino and a New London resident. “The liquid is nowhere near as dangerous (as tobacco).”
Benitez, who also makes his e-cigarette purchases online, said start-up costs can run as high as $150. Over the past three months, he said he’s spent $30 on the liquid.
Both Jarvis and Benitez said they like that the e-cigarette cartridges come in different flavors, a feature opponents like Blumenthal say can make them more attractive to underage users.
”I don’t see a young person spending $150 on e-cigarettes instead of video games or something,” Benitez said.
FDA warnings aside, e-cigarette users, some of whom communicate in an online forum at www.VaporTalk.com, point to physicians who have rallied behind the product, including Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health. In a blog posting Tuesday, Siegel wrote that laboratory analysis “certainly suggests that there is no major contamination of these products with carcinogens, indicating that these products are much safer than conventional cigarettes.”
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