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E-cigarettes not just blowing smoke

April 27, 2011

One of the joys of Satellite radio is that you get to hear all the low-budget, filler advertisements that they run when, for one reason or another, they have empty air time to fill.

You really get the jump on the latest scams, snake oil and fringe products well before they hit national consciousness. These are the companies that will eliminate your back taxes, buy you up a mess of gold bullion, get you out of your credit-card debt, refinance your house, give you six-pack abs without diet or exercise and communicate with your deceased dog.

They do a big, initial ad run, and then you normally don't hear from them again until they're featured on "60 Minutes."

Usually these are services, but every so often there is an actual product you can buy, if you are so inclined. This is why I was way ahead of the curve in hearing some time back about e-cigarettes, which have just been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sale in mainstream stores.

I guess e-anything is supposed to be better and easier, whether it's mail, insurance, commerce or cigarettes. (Personally, I'm holding out for the invention of e-beer — it still gets you drunk, but at least you can remember which sister you're married to.)

The first interesting thing about e-cigarettes is that they are battery powered. I think that is so cool. I mean, if we have battery-powered cigarettes, how far away can we be from battery-powered food?

Some day our ancestors will look back at us in pity and tell their amazed children how we had to mechanically lift food from our plate to our mouths with a "fork," an antiquated instrument now only seen decorating the walls of Cracker Barrel.

The e-cigarette, near as I can tell, is a nicotine-delivery system that looks like a cigarette and acts like a cigarette, but has no tobacco in it. The "smoke" is actually water vapor that does not endanger other people as second-hand smoke would.

And I can tell you for a fact that it works, because I, with my own eyes, read a "hands on editorial" on the website of Health Journal, purportedly written by a young woman named Annabel Smith.

Annabel, in a nutshell, started out dubious that a mechanical cigarette could help her quite smoking: "We here at Health Journals (they are a bit confused as to whether their name is Health Journal or Health Journals) are a little skeptical and aren't sure that we've seen any real proof that these electronic cigarettes work to aid in quitting smoking."

Whoa. Watch out Mike Wallace, Annabel is on the case — although she may be the first investigative journalist to ever use emoticons ;).

She said she has smoked for 25 years and volunteered to be a test rat for checking out e-cigarettes' claims.

For the record, the young woman (her photo appears in a newsroom-like setting) looks to be about 24 at most, meaning she had to have taken up smoking in roughly the second trimester. But in my view, this only adds to the miracle that a woman who had smoked all through her childhood, teen and young-adult years was, indeed, able to kick the smoking habit by — smoking.

Admittedly, I'm a little unclear at what the difference is. It strikes me as giving up dessert by eating brownies. Buy hey, if it worked for Annabel, that's good enough for me.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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