POCATELLO, Idaho - Electronic cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular way for smokers to kick that nicotine habit. Today's the deadline for the Food and Drug Administration to come up with a set of regulations for this alternative to the traditional cigarette, but those regulations have not yet been released.
On Friday, a new e-cigarette shop will officially open its doors in Pocatello on Yellowstone Ave. called The Vaping Outlet.
Co-Owner Trent Carrell said he was a smoker for nearly 25 years before he realized that turning to e-cigarettes was his chance to quit the unhealthy habit. He said opening this store will allow him to help others looking for a way out as well.
"After smoking for 25 years, you don't notice it over time how bad you really feel," Carrell said. "But the wheezing in the morning, the getting winded at the top of the stairs - after vaping, all of that stuff went away."
E-cigarettes are made-up of a vegetable glycerin base and propylene glycol - both are natural food preservatives which are nearly the only ingredients in e-cigarettes, excluding the option of including nicotine as well.
E-cigarettes then convert into water vapor when inhaled, so smokers are not allowing the 78 toxic carcinogens into their lungs from smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Lung specialist and nurse practitioner at the Portneuf Medical Center's Pocatello Lung and Sleep Clinic Gus Blad agreed e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative.
"They are not doing anything to harm your lungs," Blad said. "For those who are addicted to nicotine it helps them have a healthier lifestyle. Breathing in cigarette smoke damages your lungs by creating pockets inside of your lungs that does not allow your oxygen to exchange with your blood. So, consequently you are suffocating yourself more and more each day you do it."
He also mentioned a good portion of the habit comes from the hand-to-mouth motion smokers are used to.
"Another problem with smoking is that people not only get addicted to the nicotine, but also the behavioral modifications that go with that. Those are hard habits to break, but with an e-cigarette it is a healthier choice because you're not getting that same smoke inhalation."
"There are a lot of the Pavlovian responses," Carrell said. "A lot of people like to smoke after a cup of coffee, when they're driving. There's a lot of ritual involved in smoking a cigarette."
However, with the variety of flavors and flashy advertisements, people are afraid shops might sell e-cigarettes to kids who are under 18 years old.
But Carrell said he and the other vapor shops he has spoken to have an "unwritten rule" they will not sell to minors since these shops are aimed at helping people quit smoking.
Blad said he has not seen any research to indicate e-cigarettes spark the smoking habit in people who have never smoked before. Carrell said he, too, has not seen any customers come through who have wanted to pick-up smoking e-cigarettes when they have not been previous smokers.
Pocatello city council member Steve Brown said the city has been discussing possible smoking ban regulations when it comes to smoking in public places around the community.
"The underlying concern is: how far do you go in dictating how a person lives their life?" Brown said when addressing what the city takes into consideration while discussing these issues. "We need to be careful in respecting the rights of the smoker, but the smoker also has to have a consideration for those who don't smoke."
However, he said the factor of e-cigarettes have not yet been mentioned in their discussions.
One of the biggest issues the city also faces when it comes to smoking in public places, is the litter cigarettes leave behind. With e-cigarettes, that could not happen.
Carrell said if the federal, state or city government decides to put any regulations on e-cigarettes, he welcomes them, while reminding people that e-cigarette users are just trying to better their health and the health of others around them.