ALPHARETTA, Ga. — In June, Starbucks Coffee Company announced a policy that banned smoking 25 feet from the entrance of the store.
Smokers in the area and across the nation expressed their disapproval with the ban and some refused to adhere to the new policy as they felt it impeded their smoking rights.
The recent debate has brought to light shifts in attitudes toward the smoking community and culture. In the ongoing battle between smokers and nonsmokers, many people have turned to electronic, or e-cigarettes, a smokeless, digital “vapor cigarette” as a viable nicotine option in a smoke-free society.
“The preferences of adult smokers are changing,” said David Howard, spokesman for R. J. Reynolds Vapor, a company that specializes in tobacco technology and vapor products. “It’s our focus to provide innovative products for adult tobacco consumers to consider in response to the ever-changing preferences.”
Smokers in need of their nicotine fix can technically take the vapor cigarettes indoors, Howard said. There is no tobacco in the product— when a customer inhales it activates a power unit which heats an element over liquid nicotine. The process yields a tobacco-less vapor that customers inhale.
“Because there is no combustion, there’s no smoke,” Howard said.
Even without the smoke, some local ordinances and business policies such as Starbucks include e-cigarettes in their ban.
“We take seriously our responsibility to provide all customers a safe, healthy environment that is consistent across our company-owned stores,” said Jamie Riley, spokeswoman for Starbucks. “We are confident our great customers will continue to support and cooperate with us on this without disruption to business.”
Despite innovative changes in the cigarette industry, some of the basic health concerns from traditional tobacco cigarettes follow the new product.
“It would be hard for a medical person to endorse the use of e-cigarettes,” said Dr. Michael Lipscomb, medical director of the emergency department at North Fulton Hospital. “The only use I see would be for a person to use them to transition off traditional cigarettes with the clear goal of getting off cigarettes altogether.”
Little is known about e-cigarettes’ true harm, Lipscomb said. The label warnings do not always match the amount of nicotine in the cigarettes and despite vapor companies’ claims, the product contains harmful carcinogens.
Lipscomb likened the vapor cigarette to nicotine gum as both smoking alternatives provide the stimulating effects of a cigarette, but avoid the negative social stigma associated with smoke.
“It’s likely a lesser of two evils,” said Lipscomb.
In 2011, the percentage of traditional cigarette adult users who had tried e-cigarettes, increased from 10 percent in 2010 to 21 percent, according to a February study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While consumer awareness of e-cigarettes rose from about four in 10 adults in 2010 to six in 10 adults in 2011, much about the product is unknown to the scientific research community, the report said.
“If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC.
In Forsyth County, one local “vaping” store that carries the new e-cigarette has experienced a growing demand.
Joan Nissley, co-owner of Rock N Role Vapor, said several people have come into her store to make the transition from tobacco to e-cigarettes.
One customer smoked three packs a day before he switched to e-cigarettes. Now he doesn’t smoke anymore.
“People enjoy the different flavors,” Nissley said. “But some people just want the taste of a regular cigarette in an e-cigarette.”
This article appeared in the August 8 issue of the Milton Herald.