Electronic Cigarettes and “Vaping” are becoming ever more popular in New Orleans. This seems like a likely conclusion due to the fact that Louisiana has one of the nations highest rates of tobacco use . Despite the fact that a large number of New Orleanians are embracing e-cigarettes to reduce or stop smoking habits, others are still cautious of this phenomenon.
There are a wide variety of misconceptions regarding vaping: claims that e-liquids contain antifreeze and that ecigarettes are unhealthier than traditional tobacco cigarettes. When a product that promises delivery of nicotine without the major drawbacks, contreversy is inevitable.
Delgado Community College New Orleans instruction, Cameron Christy, proclaims: “I dislike the idea of (ecigarettes) and would never use them. I smoke cigarettes sometimes, and I like knowing that I am smoking a tobacco leaf and nothing else. I buy tobacco-only cigarettes. I guess I’m a purist in my bad habits. I have had a student light an e-cig in class to my complete shock.”
New Orleans Public Library system employee, Catherine Spaulding, declares that “they look dumb — obviously the worst offense of all, right?” However, she began to take a more serious tone: “Smoke real cigarettes or quit. If you can’t quit cold turkey, slap on a patch and laugh at the pathetic huddled masses under awnings in the rain who aren’t as strong as you.”
E-cigarettes: The Lesser of Two Evils?
On the contrary, a variety of New Orleanians feel as if electronic cigarettes are a helpful alternative. A literature graduate student and bartender on Bourbon Street, Isabelle Whitman ( a non smoker/non vaper), states that she would rather customers use e-cigs instead of tobacco cigarettes: “There’s no cleaning disgusting cigarette butts that people have had in their mouths. They usually smell good, and that smell doesn’t stick to you like tobacco smoke.”
New Orleans jazz musician and organizer, Mark Wayne, finds e-cigarettes to be a proverbial savior. He notes that: “I consider myself a low-level activist for these things. As cigarette prices kept rising, I was angry. I felt like Big Tobacco had this control over me — tobacco buyers are specifically and aggressively targeted. So I switched to e-cigs and I love them.”
Mark squelched a two-pack-a-day smoking habit; The benefits of this transformation were quickly apparent. He explains that “My lungs cleared up. And my kids said ‘your voice sounds so much cleaner. I don’t hear you coughing anymore.”
One of the most addicting habits in the world is smoking tobacco cigarettes (“analogs”). It’s incredibly hard to quit, and Mark Wayne experienced this firsthand. “I lost my job and half my income and I went back to smoking tobacco. A stressful life has kept me on real cigarettes, though I also use my e-cigarette. It can still sometimes keep me off tobacco for a whole night.”
New Orleans native and literary editor, Liam Meilleur, stopped smoking entirely using e-cigarettes. He states that “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. Asthma and twenty years of smoking taught me that. So, what do I think of e-cigs? I no longer carry a rescue Asthma inhaler in my pocket, and I stopped filling my Advair prescription. I haven’t been to an emergency room for respiratory distress in over four years.”
That which could potentially reduce the deadly consequences of tobacco smoking — responsible for nearly half a million annual deaths in the U.S. — could be a major benefit to the public health of our city and the country. Or it could just be an excuse to trade in one unhealthy addiction for a potentially less harmful addiction.
Disinformation: Cause for Concern
A great number of New Orleanians have been quick to write off vaping as just another silly trend despite the potential benefits. The previously mentioned literary editor, Meilleur, stated “there’s so much misinformation and alarmist hand-wringing out there […] Almost every state has legislation under consideration that would ban e-cigs. These laws would force smokers to return to inhaling thousands of known carcinogenic and toxic chemicals — all in the name of protecting us from the possibility that e-cigs might not be 100% safe.”
- NOLA VAPE Disagrees with Meilleur’s sentiment by noting that her argument takes for granted that potential laws that would “ban” e-cigs in various states would also force smokers to return to inhaling thousands of known carcinogenic and toxic chemicals.