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E-cigarettes gain popularity with Oklahomans trying to quit smoking

E-cigarettes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Essentially, they're a smokeless way to ingest nicotine, although some e-cigarette users choose products that don't have any nicotine.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: June 24, 2013 at 11:55 am •  Published: June 24, 2013

Bob Clark didn't have any plans to quit smoking.

He smoked about 20 bowls of pipe tobacco a day and maybe 10 cigarettes, give or take a few.

But a recent visit to his doctor changed his mind.

“I wasn't a chain smoker — I was a heavy smoker,” he said. “And I decided that enough was enough, especially when I found out that I had some precancerous cells on the bottom of my mouth.”

Clark soon bought an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, a device some Oklahomans are using to try to quit smoking. And some e-cigarette researchers say within 10 years, e-cigarette users will surpass the number of smokers in the U.S.

E-cigarettes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Essentially, they're a smokeless way to ingest nicotine, although some e-cigarette users choose products that don't have any nicotine.

The term “vaping” comes from the vapor that comes out when e-cigarette users use the device.

Nationwide, about 21 percent of adults who smoke traditional cigarettes had used electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's up from about 10 percent in 2010.

They're becoming an increasingly more common choice for smokers trying to quit, but public health officials have not added e-cigarettes to their list of viable ways to kick the habit.

Rather, Jennifer Lepard, of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said the research that's been performed on e-cigarettes isn't solid enough at this point to warrant an endorsement.

“We don't want to discourage anybody who is looking to quit smoking cigarettes,” Lepard said. “We do, however, believe that there are more scientifically proven ways to quit.”

Those ways include calling the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at (800) QUIT-NOW, which provides smokers with free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum, and also a free quit coach.

For now, people can use their e-cigarettes just about anywhere that will let them.

Oklahoma's current smoking law was mostly written in 2003, before e-cigarettes were popular in the state, Lepard said.

“There's a lot of debate right now as to what their proper place is in our law,” Lepard said. “And there's nothing that would prohibit a company or private business from choosing to not allow them if they wanted to do so.”

Remaining optimistic

Since he bought his e-cigarette, Clark is down to about two cigarettes a day and three bowls of pipe tobacco.

Clark is optimistic about the potential benefits of switching to an e-cigarette. He won't miss the mess of tobacco or the stains on his teeth. And he is hopeful that he won't have to repaint the inside walls of his home because of the stain from the smoke.

And the people around him will no longer have to deal with his secondhand smoke.

“Everybody that smokes probably would love to quit, and I think that each individual has to make that decision, and it's a hard one,” he said. “It's not easy, but this vaping will make it easier for you.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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