For the past few centuries, the process hasn’t really varied— striking a flame, holding it to the tip, and inhaling burning tobacco to feed a craving for nicotine. However, in the past few years a new alternative has presented itself for people to get their fix.
Vaporizers, or “e-cigarettes,” have begun to enter the mainstream culture as either an alternative to cigarettes or a way to transition away from tobacco and nicotine altogether. Consumers inhale a flavored vapor of their choice, and have the option to adjust the amount of nicotine in each dose.
Compared to a product that causes more than 480,000 deaths annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the tar-less, smokeless vaporizer seems to have a certain appeal.
For Henderson freshman Tirsa Spiller, who had smoked cigarettes for roughly a year, it was the latter.
“Before my e-cig, I smoked about a pack a day for about a year,” she said.
Spiller, whose mother smoked, was no stranger to cigarettes. Things changed two years ago, however, when Spiller’s mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer caused by smoking.
Cancer is only one of the possible results of smoking cigarettes consistently over time— yellowing of teeth, birth deficiencies and coronary heart disease are among them as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death with the capacity to harm nearly every organ in the body.
Spiller said her mother’s cancer inspired her not to smoke, but the stress from life changes only encouraged her smoking.
“With her having the cancer and me starting college, graduating high school and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life— it really stressed me out,” she said.
“When I came to college, I really connected to people who were also smokers and it kind of increased the habit that I already had.”
Spiller and her peers weren’t alone. An estimated 18.1 percent of all adults, or 42.1 million people aged 18 and older are current cigarette smokers according to a 2012 CDC report. Over 822,000 of those individuals are Kentucky residents, roughly 25.2 percent of the state’s population.
A year after her mother’s diagnosis, a family member purchased a vaporizer for Spiller’s mother who, in turn, hasn’t smoked a cigarette since receiving it. This past Christmas, Spiller’s mother gifted one to her daughter to help her kick the habit.
“She realized that I was smoking — and not just smoking a little bit, but a lot,” she said. “I haven’t had a cigarette since. We both kind of quit cold turkey.”
In the two months since Spiller has smoked a cigarette, she said she feels her body rejuvenating.
“I feel a lot better. It was getting to the point it was hard for me to breathe.” she said. “When I went to bed or when I woke up I was coughing up really bad phlegm.”
Currently, Spiller is “vaping” a flavor called “mango twist” with 18 milligrams of nicotine, but she anticipates a time in the future where she won’t need even that.
“As time goes along I tend to forget about it, so I tend not to feel the need to smoke as much,” she said. “But when I have it around me when it’s not on the charger, I’m so attached to it I practically cuddle with it.”
Sam Freeman, the owner of the local vaporizer shop Remedy Vapor, said he was able to stop smoking after a decade of using an e-cigarette.
After catching the flu and not being able to recover properly due to his cigarette addiction, a friend recommended that he try vaping.
“I quit smoking right away. Within three or four days I started feeling ten times better and said ‘this is it for me, no more cigarettes’ and now I couldn’t even imagine smoking a cigarette,” he said, adding that he has “vaped” for three years now.
The term “e-cigarette” is not one that Freeman uses to describe his product.
“Most people say ‘e-cig,’ but us in the industry use ‘vaporizer,’” he said. “There’s a negative connotation with the word cigarette all together.”
Remedy Vapor has been open for nine months now, and Freeman anticipates the business to continue to be successful as more people realize the detrimental effect smoking cigarettes is having on their body.
“It all just depends on commitment— if you don’t wan to quit smoking, this is not going to make you quit,” he said. “You still have to have a commitment, it’s not a magic wand.”