Dec 11, 2013 11:59 PM by Matthew Schwartz
TUCSON - Forty-six year old Sparky Waters says he smoked two and a half packs of cigarettes a day since he was a teenager.
"I tried Chantix, I tried the patch, I tried everything and it didn't work. This works."
Waters says he quit smoking regular cigarettes a year ago thanks to electronic cigarettes. Also known as e-cigs, they're battery operated, and deliver a vaporized form of nicotine, flavor and other chemicals, but no tar. E-cigs are also available without nicotine.
E-cigarette sales have reportedly doubled every year since 2008, and are expected to reach one and a half billion units this year. A recent study of 627 smokers concluded that the e-cigarette is as about as effective as the patch in getting smokers to quit. But unlike the patch, nicotine gum and lozenges, e-cigs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which has been researching them for years.
Dr. Myra Muramoto is the senior vice-chair of UA's College of Family and Community Medicine and has been studying smoking cessation for 20 years. She does not recommend e-cigarettes.
Dr. Muramoto told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "I think it's very much a buyer beware situation because they're an unregulated product. We don't really know what goes into the manufacturing of the product, the ingredients that go into the product, and the advertising around it not being regulated, and they're not being really proven to be safe. There really isn't that much data out there about them."
Many health professionals say e-cigs are as addictive as cigarettes. Dr. Muramoto says the best method for quitting traditional cigarettes depends on the individual's make-up and history.
She says, "My advice is to get professional help. It's (quitting smoking) a difficult thing to do on one's own."
Meanwhile, Sparky Waters saw the e-cigs boom in popularity and decided to cash in on it. He opened an electronic cigarette store. And, Waters says he's saved a lot of money by switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes.
Holding up his e-cig, he said, "to fill this up with juice would cost you about 80 cents, where a pack of cigarettes would cost you $6.00."
More than half the states, including Arizona, have banned the sale of e-cigs to minors. A decision on federal government regulation of e-cigs is expected soon.
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