SHERMAN, TX -- According to the CDC, cigarette sales dropped 6.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, and that's expected to continue. Health experts say much of that drop is due to the increased tax on cigarettes, and possibly the new laws and ordinances states and cities have enacted, restricting smoking in public.
But there's a relatively new high tech trend, that may also be cutting cigarette sales.
The electronic cigarette industry is already close to approaching $1 billion in sales. They were first introduced in the U.S. in 2007, and many smokers we spoke to believe they're the future of smoking. But while they seem to provide a safe alternative to actually smoking, we talked to a doctor who says that may not be the case.
Americans have smoked cigarettes for nearly a century and a half. But it's out with the old, and in with the new, because the electronic cigarette is gaining popularity among smokers and even some doctors are backing the product since you're inhaling vapor -- not actual smoke.
"The pros of electronic cigarettes is that you're not smoking a lot of bad ingredients that's in real cigarettes that cause cancer, heart disease, stroke," Dr. Don Wynn said.
Pulmonologist Dr. Don Wynn says while he discourages any type of tobacco or nicotine use, he says e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. He says they've been proven to reduce cigarette cravings, and even help smokers quit altogether.
"Since the day I picked this up, I haven't smoked another one," former smoker Chessa Barnett said.
"I tried a cigarette and I just can't smoke anymore," former smoker Linda Moore said.
Linda Moore and Chessa Barnett considered themselves die hard smokers. Both smoked cigarettes for more than 50 years.
"I used to smoke at least two packs a day, sometimes three," Barnett said.
"One thing about it is I've never said I'm quitting smoking. I thought maybe I'd cut back, and I've totally quit and did within the first week," Moore said.
So, what exactly is an e-cigarette? They do not contain tobacco, tar or other harmful carcinogens. The nicotine in an e-cig is vaporized and does not smell like smoke. But, they're not regulated by the FDA and the long-term effects of their use are unknown.
"The vapor, as of right now, we can only assume that it does not have any dangerous substance in it. However, I think further testing needs to be done to confirm that the vapor is not dangerous to human beings," Dr. Wynn said.
But despite the unknowns, e-cigarette businesses like The Vape Escape in Durant are popping up all over Texoma. They say business is booming.
"There are lots of smokers around here and I personally have never met a smoker that doesn't want to quit," The Vape Escape manager, Loryne Perkins, said.
Dozens of customers have signed the business's wall -- marking that they're cigarette-free. For Barnett and Moore, they say they believe this is the future of smoking, and has helped, and will help save their lives.
"I want to live. My grandchildren, I'd like to see them graduate," Barnett said.
"If I can, any body can. Because I was really a very die hard smoker," Moore said.
Major cigarette industries are noticing the e-cigarette market, and have announced plans to roll out their own e-cig lines. And there has been legislation introduced in many states, including Oklahoma, that will set the age limit at 18 and add a tax to the devices. The legislation is awaiting a House vote in Oklahoma.
The e-cigarette dealers we spoke to said although it is not law to sell to people 18 and up, they still ID and follow that recommendation
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