Friday, January 27, 2012

New York e-cig train making its way out of the station

A recent weekend trip to New York City provided the Wisconsin-based E Cig Werks blogger with the chance to see firsthand just how electronic cigarettes are being accepted, marketed and promoted in the city that never sleeps.

My main lesson from three days and mostly nights of vaping in the Big Apple is that while electronic cigarettes have come far, they remain a long way from being truly accepted as a commercially viable product, even in cosmopolitan New York.

The weekend began in Brooklyn with outstanding coal brick-oven pizza and Peroni beers at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria right under the Brooklyn Bridge. While we didn’t vape there, we went on to enjoy some e-cigs in Brooklyn’s fashionable Williamsburg neighborhood along Bedford Avenue. Appropriately, we enjoyed the Brooklyn-based Bedford Slims (more on that later), as well as Greensmoke and Blu.

Unfortunately, the night was a bit of a blur after that as I can’t quite remember too much more than the cab ride back to Midtown.

Somewhat surprisingly, the experience of smoking electronic cigarettes in New York didn’t seem too much different than that back in Wisconsin. I usually don’t ask anyone for permission to vape anymore, or maybe just casually ask the bartender or waitress in a tavern or restaurant. Then, it’s time to sit back to enjoy the experience and conversation.

I honestly expected more negativity and pushback on electronic cigarettes in New York since the city is at the hyper regulated forefront of the anti-tobacco movement. Instead, much like my current experience in the Midwest, New Yorkers either didn’t care about the vapor from e-cigs or were just curious about what they were and how they worked.

One of the more interesting places to be in New York is of course the Subway, which was the best way to get between my Midtown hotel and the Greenwich Village hangouts we visited. As comfortable as I felt vaping at the MTA stations, platforms or stairs, I couldn’t muster the guts to smoke electronically in the Subway train cars. Maybe I just didn’t want the hassle or some sort of Bernie Goetz moment.

Last fall, the MTA even banned regular cigarettes on some of their outdoor platforms. Meanwhile, I had no problem smoking electronic cigarettes in most indoor areas except for on the trains themselves.

After taking the train from Midtown to the East Village on a Friday night, we enjoyed burgers and Yuenglings at the Corner Bistro, followed by treks to the d.b.a. bar for some really good beer and then Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village for PBRs. All three had very different crowds and atmosphere, but varied little in their reception to electronic cigarettes. Essentially, nobody had a problem with them and a few people asked questions about the e-cigs and how they work.

My Saturday night in New York was spent with Bedford Slims Vapourette Co. founder Jesse Gaddis at the Revival Bar. While it would have been nice to meet in Brooklyn since that’s where his company is based, the East Village was a good compromise.

Since I had previously blogged on Bedford Slims and enjoy their products, it was a great opportunity to meet up and discuss the electronic cigarettes industry, as well as enjoy a few beers, Bravo pizza and oh yes, some Bedford Slims. Some of the topics of interest included e-cig products, marketing, acceptance and more.

While regular cigarette smokers on the street outside bars, businesses and restaurants are a common sight in today’s anti-smoking climate, the smokers are even more apparent in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world like New York. Considering the weather was cold and windy, it just didn’t seem appropriate to bother many of the smokers with an electronic cigarette pitch or question.

Before heading back to the unseasonably warm Midwest, I enjoyed one last great New York meal at the Jet Rock Bar & Grill at my favorite old school airport LaGuardia. I’ve also had little backlash to electronic cigarettes in airports, especially in a bar. Vaping on the airplanes themselves is a different story (see previous post).

One of the female bartenders at LaGuardia noticed my e-cig and said she might be interested to cut down on her smoking, while the other commented “they’re in all the clubs, but just not the same.”

Feel free to share your experiences with electronic cigarettes in cites like New York, Milwaukee or anywhere else.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Supposedly scientific smoking studies seem to defy logic

Some recent studies gaining different levels of publicity in the tobacco and cigarette space revolve around the impacts of marijuana and electronic cigarettes on the lungs, as well as the impact of certain smoking cessation options.

Of course, the study claiming that marijuana smoking does not harm the lungs is gaining the most significant attention. The study stating that electronic cigarettes can harm the lungs received considerably less attention and was quickly questioned by a health organization, while the smoking cessation study gained moderate media coverage, but did not include electronic cigarettes as an option.

It seems that just about any organization can find or create a study to justify or demonize whatever product or program they are trying to promote or shutdown. In addition, many of these studies seem designed to gain maximum publicity by coming to the most controversial or newsworthy conclusion. For example, there are studies that claim sheep and elephants can distinguish faces, women wearing red seem more attractive and women with better figures are smarter.           

So, let’s start with the electronic cigarette study, which at least acknowledges up front that its sample size was “small.” In fact, the study in the medical journal Chest from the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece had 30 healthy smokers puff an electronic cigarette to find that after five minutes, users showed signed of airway constriction and inflammation.

Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices that allow smokers to inhale vaporized liquid nicotine in place of tobacco smoke and the accompanying burning toxins. Electronic cigarettes typically consist of nicotine, water, propylene glycol, glycerol and flavorings.

Besides that you would think any Center for Tobacco Control might start with an inherent bias, even the leader of the study admitted that more long-term studies are needed on electronic cigarettes. Do you think? Anyone who believes that having 30 people inhale anything for five minutes isn’t going to have negative effects might as well be smoking something else.

Speaking of smoking funny cigarettes, the marijuana study researchers followed more than 5,000 people over two decades to find that regularly smoking marijuana — the equivalent of up to a joint a day over seven years — did not impair performance on a lung function test that measured pulmonary obstruction as the amount of air a person can force out in one second after taking a deep breath, which is typically worsened by smoking tobacco.

So, have we come to the point where smoking pot is more acceptable than smoking cigarettes? This study would make it would almost seem so as it focused more on lung capacity and less of marijuana effects like reduced attention, lower motivation, risk of accidents and increased appetite aka “the munchies.”             

At least the marijuana study used a credible sample size of 5,100 men and women in four major U.S. cities over a 20-year period and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study does come at a time of more common legal use of medical marijuana and increased use and acceptance among young people.

The smoking cessation study claimed that nicotine patches, gum or other nicotine replacement products are not effective at preventing former smokers from relapsing. Again, electronic cigarettes were not highlighted as an option. Using a sample of just under 800 adults who had recently quit smoking, nearly one-third apparently returned to using cigarettes. This study came from the Journal of Tobacco Control by researchers from Harvard and the University of Massachusetts.

While these studies can be lauded and questioned depending on your perspective, they really serve as little more than glorified conversation starters. If nothing else, electronic cigarettes may help avoid tobacco and help reduce nicotine, but they just won’t get you high.