Can electronic cigarettes help smokers kick the traditional habit?

Darrin Gold had been smoking for 27 years when he picked up an electronic cigarette. The Los Angeles real estate broker had tried to quit via nicotine gum, patches and lozenges, and didn't hold out much hope for the personal vaporizer.

A few days later, he trashed his traditional cigarettes.

Technically, e-cigarettes are not stop-smoking devices and may not be marketed as such. There is not much published scientific evidence that the devices are a viable method to quit cigarettes, says Linda Sarna, a professor at UCLA's school of nursing and chair of the committee that recently enacted a campus-wide ban of cigarettes both traditional and electronic. For now, she says, that makes them "snake oil."

"If there is a product out there that can help smokers quit and is safe, we're all for it," adds Sarna. "We just need the evidence."

But some individual ex-smokers report that the personal vaporizer was the only way they finally managed to kick the butts.

Gold, founder of the L.A. Vapers Club, started "vaping" at 36 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of juice, and after one year was down to six. He soon plans to drop to zero.

"I'll still get to enjoy the hobby, without the harm," he says.

The difference: Unlike chewing gum, sucking on a lozenge or slapping on a patch, the act of vaping feels like the act of smoking.

"There's a whole ritual to it," notes Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. "I think that there is a lot of evidence that these products are extremely helpful to many people in helping them quit smoking."

Quit smoking, but not necessarily cease inhaling.

"We don't look at it as a smoking cessation device," says John "JJ" Jenkins, owner of the Vapor Spot in Los Angeles. "We never want to quit our morning coffee and vape."

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