Every day in the press we read about both the growing popularity of vaping and e-cigarettes and also the push back by cities and elected officials who are trying to limit their use. I have spent the last four years of my life as an e-cig user, a dedicated advocate and an entrepreneurial businesswoman who opened the first Vaporuim in New York. Here is my story.
Living in New York in my early 20s, like many of the people around me, I experimented with substances. By the end, my use was problematic and I needed to stop. I left New York and went to Colorado to get sober. The beauty of the outdoors was good to me, and I was able to stop using chemicals. All except for one: cigarettes. It was my last addiction, and it was not meshing well with my new athletic outdoorsy lifestyle and my desire to live free of harmful substances.
During this time, I was introduced to one of the first ever e-cigarettes. This was in 2010, when very few people had seen one and they were very hard to come by. The e-cigarette was a dream come true. I was able to finally quit my hardest addiction and I felt healthier on a physical level. I was determined to get more e-cigs -- not only for me, but also for my friends who wanted to quit smoking, too.
Because e-cigs were not yet popular in the U.S., I took matters into my own hands and traveled to China, to the source, to find more e-cigs. I was determined to get this harm reduction product into the hands of everyone I knew who smoked cigarettes, and to those I didn't know who could benefit. I had found my calling and believed that I could help millions of people to reduce or quit their smoking and, in the process, save millions of lives. I met with manufacturers, gave them ideas, discussed new and improved technologies and different flavors. Along with my business partner, I started my own vaping company, Henley, and we began distributing e-cigs to gas stations, bodegas and hotels.
Fast forward four years, and we now see e-cigs in most cities in America. I walk down the street on the Lower East Side and it seems like one out of 10 people are vaping. Millions of people trying to quit smoking are embracing this helpful alternative. We see the technologies evolving and the addition of flavors that are successfully motivating people to give up smoking and switch over to vaping. Henley sells options tailored to a former smoker's needs--hundreds of nicotine eliquid flavors and different devices. We also offer these vape products online and we are planning to open up Vaporiums all over the country.
For the first time in history vape users are actually able to choose nicotine strengths, flavors and delivery systems. These options make it easier to quit smoking. We also offer adults non-nicotine options so they can free themselves of any nicotine if they choose, while still experiencing the satisfaction of vaping and flavors. Tobacco companies have never allowed consumers to decouple nicotine from the experience of consuming combustible tobacco. The vaping industry has adopted this type of consumer-centric choice that is core to our mission of reducing the harm caused by tobacco related illnesses.
The success of vaping should make all anti-smoking advocates cautiously optimistic. In May, a large study out of England was published in the journal Addiction and made national news when they reported that smokers trying to quit were 60 percent more likely to succeed if they used electronic cigarettes than the over-the-counter therapies such as nicotine patches or gum.Earlier this year, dozens of health experts sent a letter to the World Health Organization in support of e-cigarettes, saying they "could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century, perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives." And just this week, the Wall Street Journal ran an important op-ed by Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, who discredited the e-cigartte is a gateway to smoking argument. Mr. Siegel has 25 years of experience in tobacco control and points out that there is no evidence that people who use e-cigs then go on to smoking.
So far there has been too much knee-jerk opposition to e-cigs from many in the anti-smoking community and some opportunistic politicians. They have been trying to restrict and demonize e-cigarette manufacturers and users, equating vaping with smoking. But vaping and smoking are not the same. In fact, vaping is accomplishing the goal of getting people to reduce or quit smoking tobacco. If policymakers and the media demonize e-cigarettes they are doing a great disservice to people who are either using e-cigs or plan to one day, by discouraging them from using this powerful tool.
We are on the same team as anti-smoking activists and people who want to reduce the harms of smoking tobacco. We need to move forward together, conduct more research and public education and make this tool that is already helping millions of people reduce or cease smoking more widely available. Vaping and e-cigarettes are the biggest and possibly most successful form of harm-reduction we have in this country today. That is something everyone should celebrate.
Talia Eisenberg is a vape user, advocate and founder of Henley Premium Vapor and The Henley Vaporium.