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Invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003, e-cigs started gaining notoriety in the United States a few years later. Now several models have been built around similar technology. E-cigs mimic traditional cigarettes in terms of shape and function. Users get the feel of smoking without ingesting the tobacco and harmful toxins in cigarettes.

Pen-style e-cigs are larger and resemble a ballpoint pen. The model is growing in popularity — users say the larger e-cigs offer longer battery life and bigger nicotine cartridges.

E-cig bases sit in a display case at North Texas Vapor Shop in Denton. Mouthpieces are sold separately. Melissa Wylie
E-cig bases sit in a display case at North Texas Vapor Shop in Denton. Mouthpieces are sold separately. Melissa Wylie

All the versions contain a battery-powered chamber where a liquid form of nicotine or other substance is converted into vapor. Cartridges with varying strengths of nicotine are sold online and at stores often referred to as vape shops. Smokers who are trying to quit can use weaker and weaker nicotine cartridges, eventually transitioning to a solution with no nicotine at all. The ability to control the nicotine content is the main reason e-cigs are credited with helping people break the habit.

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Purchasing liquid nicotine is legal and easy — more than 40 vape shops operate in Tarrant County alone. But for those wanting a vaporized high, getting supplies can be tricky.

To use marijuana in an e-cig, the drug must first be transformed into concentrated oil. In states like Colorado or California with marijuana dispensaries on street corners, oil can be bought legally. In Texas, smokers have to get creative.

Sandy, a Fort Worth resident, makes occasional trips to buy the liquid pot in states where it’s legal. The weed concentrates available in Fort Worth are in short supply and of questionable origins.

“I wouldn’t trust it,” he said. “You should worry about what you put in your body.”

There are e-cigs made specifically for smoking dry herb, but Sandy said the experience differs from using oils.

“It’s not total vaporization; it’s combustion,” he said. “It smells.”

The high can also be much different. Smoking pot that’s been set ablaze, turned to smoke, and inhaled deeply in the lungs gives users an instant and euphoric feeling that slowly eases into a pleasant buzz. Some users say vaporizing pot eases them past the initial spike and proceeds straight to the pleasant buzz, although predicting how anyone will react to smoking pot is difficult.

The Federal Drug Administration took a hard look at the e-cig phenomenon in 2009 after some people became worried about the chemical makeup of the liquids and the physical effects of those chemicals and of vaping itself.

Contradictory studies have found e-cig liquids to be both harmful chemical concoctions and effective tobacco substitutes. New information is released regularly, but there is still no agreement on health effects.

Some countries have banned the import and sale of electronic cigarettes because of the sparse information available about the chemicals. Australia classified nicotine liquid as a form of poison. Currently, the FDA categorizes e-cig liquids as tobacco products.

Despite the disagreement in research, e-cig sales have skyrocketed, tripling just during 2013, according to an article on the Bloomberg online business news site.

Earlier attempts by the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes have been struck down in federal court, but in April the agency tried again. The latest proposal would ban the sale of e-cigs to minors, require manufacturers to disclose product ingredients, require a nicotine warning on products, and restrict the sale of e-cigs in vending machines.

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed. Carl Phillips, scientific director for the nonprofit Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives, called the proposed regulation a de facto ban that would force many small e-cig manufacturers to shut down.

“It pretends to be a reasonable regulation, but in reality it destroys everything that exists so far,” he said. He called the proposed rules busywork that would create lots of paperwork.

“If the requirements were actual rules to make products better for consumers, then there would be a trade-off,” he said.

The nonprofit supports better disclosure of information and restrictions on sales to minors, and Phillips said he would like to see more testing of nicotine liquids. But he said it’s hard to imagine the regulations, as proposed, doing much good.

The research results in this country have led to a patchwork of local laws and attitudes. E-cig regulations range from strict to nonexistent. Several cities in North Texas have limited the public use of the devices. Thus far, Frisco is the only city in the area to outlaw them altogether.

“I’m just not compelled to view e-cigarettes any differently than I view regular cigarettes,” Frisco City Council member Bob Allen said at the Feb. 18 meeting when the ban was approved. “I appreciate the benefits of e-cigarettes for helping smokers break a terrible habit, but I don’t think I or my family or our citizens should be exposed to that in an environment where they aren’t allowed to be exposed to cigarettes.”

In Denton, the University of North Texas treats e-cigs the same as traditional cigarettes. The school banned smoking at the start of 2013, including the electronic version. People are required to go to the outskirts of campus to smoke and must stay at least 25 feet from building entrances.

Recent UNT graduate Dana Pisciottano said the ban hardly affected her. She thinks it was implemented to take care of the butts and other litter attached to cigarette use.

She continued to smoke on campus, Pisciottano said, in secluded areas and without leaving litter behind. But a year ago, she switched to e-cigs, in part because she believes it is cheaper.

Regulating e-cigs may not be such a bad thing, she said: If she could get more information about what she’s consuming, Pisciottano said, she would have more confidence in her habit.

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16 COMMENTS

    • Exactly. Oh no what if people are getting high in public and we can’t tell? Umm… if you can’t tell… then that means…?

      I swear sometimes I think some people still live in the Reefer Madness era.

  1. I still believe that a lot of the controversy over E-Cigs is coming from the Tobacco Industry as well as all the Governmental Taxing Authorities. Tobacco is heavily taxed by every form of Government (Federal as well as state). E-Cigs etc is only taxed as regular sales tax like you pay on most everything. They have started realizing how much $$$ they are losing as people quit smoking tobacco & move to alternatives.

    • Another thing they haven’t realized is that you can walk into any Walmart and buy 3 of the 4 ingredients needed to make your own juice. The only other thing that you would need is the liquid nicotine. Another ingredient that is perfectly legal to buy. The only possible way to get around this is to ban the sale of refillable tanks and only allow closed systems like the cig-a-likes. The exact ones big tobacco is marketing.

  2. Distasteful article, oh finally a cover story worth reporting.. You do realize that even walmart is trying to sell pot in Colorado right? In that state it is perfectly legal to consume THC in any form. And you start the read with “joe blow who likes weed, got totally pissed because his friend tricked him into vaping hash” The reason he got so afraid the cops were coming is because he’s an actual idiot. Leave well enough alone man. I get why you’d write the article, it is a noteworthy story.. But it comes off like you want people to be worried. Just because an old law that serves nothing (but drug cartels financing cocaine distribution) is still hanging around dragging its heels…doesn’t make the people discreetly (considerately) vaporizing hash, a bunch of devious criminals on their way to the pen for felonies. It just shows how “civilization” is still harbored in its ignorant disapproval of anything other than what is provided to them as safe..How about a cover story about all of the habitual drinkers that have to put vodka in their coffee in the morning so they don’t go through detox while they’re taking their kids to school.. Or how about the mother at the PTA meeting who is hopped up on pharmasuticals, jelwery, and plastic surgery.. She’s gonna have a lot of bright points to make I’m certain. And she probably thinks that this article is worthwhile, she’s gonna tell her kid that it’s alright to be a self serving moron but not to smoke hash.

    • As “Reader” stated, this might be a noteworthy story, but it’s undoubtedly just a TINY FRACTION of e-cigarette users that vape on cannabis based products or other drugs. The VAST MAJORITY of people using these devices are using them to quit smoking. Implying that there’s some inherent danger or that people should worry is like telling people that aluminum cans (or 20oz plastic bottles) are a risk because people can turn them in to pipes.

      When used appropriately, electronic cigarettes limit people’s exposure to harmful toxins and are an effective tool to help them reduce (or quit) smoking…

      • Are you reading the same story I’m reading? I see an article that desceibes a trend of smoking pot in devices intended for tobacco and being able to get high in public without being noticed. Seems like a straightforward story that isn’t choosing sides one way or the other just describing what’s happening.

  3. Who wrote this article? Some scared little bible and gun hugging little fear baby.

    It’s freakin’ e-cigs. You’re missing the point, which is less and less people are smoking tobacco and marijuana in the ‘traditional’ manor. You know the manner that stinks, causes many health well documented health problems (COPD, heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, etc), and basically annoys everyone.

    If e-cigs and vaporizer can help our population cut down on smoking, it’s best for all of us. Our nation suffers from enough sick people due to obesity, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles. If we can cut down on one group, imagine the savings in healthcare costs it could make.

    As far as what people are using in it, who cares if they use pot.

    Marijuana is much better for people than prescription drugs that pharma companies are constantly trying to shove down people’s throats. You know the ones that have a 30 second list of side-effects that get read off during the commercial that sound worse than the symptoms they are trying to fix in the first place.

    Maybe we should focus our attention on more important things than vaping.

  4. Indeed it is about something being used to smoke pot that was originally intended to be used for nicotine.. An incredibly harmful chemical that hardens your arteries… So what is the scourge here? A discreet pot smoker… Isn’t that what people want that don’t smoke.. To not smell it or breath it in? Or is it the age old.. It’s a gateway, or it’ll make you crazy. How about an article about dude bros at TCU using tampons as alcohol suppositories… That’s discreet. And incredibly dangerous… Straight up, this article bothers me because.. I am a discreet smoker and I know the laws and I still choose not to obide by them out of objection to the criminal cruelty that is placed upon the heads of people who are in no way made for the life of a prisoner… I don’t need some grandma staring discerningly at me while I’m puffing my stash.. It’s bullocks, let’s write about how the laws are trash.. And need to be abolished. Amen.

  5. JUST A NOTE TO LET YOU KNOW THAT THE FIRST PATENT FOR A SMOKELESS
    NON-TOBACCO CIGARETTE WAS FILED IN APRIL 1963 AND AWARDED IN APRIL 1965
    TO ME. PLEASE REFER TO US PATENT 3,200,819 IT HAS SERVED AS THE ROAD MAP FOR ALL ELECTRIC CIGARETTES PRODUCED TODAY.

    THANKS,

    HERBERT A. GILBERT
    EMPEROR BRANDS ORIGINAL 1963 E-CIGARETTES

  6. JD and his team have been a pioneer in marketing the best brand of E-Cigs available.. I have watch and precipitated in education of smokers in general,,,Having many family and friends die from tobacco use; I applaud their efforts… I believe we should “Feel every moment of life as one of free personal choice; reject externals as limiting what I can become; ignore “ambition” and “the right choices” as DEFINED BY OTHERS when it comes to making my own personal choices. believe in unlimited free will.” Search for truth, beauty,justice and peace should always be utmost….

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