March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With the implementation of Omaha’s indoor smoking ban in 2006, electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) have become a popular option for many patrons in local bars and businesses. Kiosks in the mall have started selling the so-called “better for you” cigarettes, and even Jake’s Cigars and Spirits in Benson and House of Loom in Downtown Omaha now sell and allow customers to smoke e-cigs.

Each bar has its own rules about e-cigs; it’s up to the owner’s discretion whether e-cig smoking in their establishment is allowed. Bar owner Tim Addison of Addy’s Bar and Grill in Millard says smoking e-cigs in his business is permissible, though he prefers those with e-cigs go outside “like everyone else.” Addy’s is a family-friendly place, he says, and he feels smoking e-cigs indoors just looks bad. Addison cites a regular customer who comes in often for lunch: “He smokes electronic cigarettes, but he still goes outside out of routine.”

The occasionally disposable but usually rechargeable e-cigs are a battery-powered nicotine delivery system that simulates the act of smoking a traditional cigarette. E-cigs use a mixture of vapor, flavoring, and nicotine to create a smoking affect, and some even have a light at the end that glows when inhaled, mimicking a real cigarette. The controversy surrounding e-cigs, however, is this: while makers claim they help some people quit smoking, they are still not considered a safe alternative to smoking by many health professionals. According to WebMD, e-cigs have different levels of nicotine, so in theory they can be used to lessen one’s addiction to cigarettes, or even help them quit. Unlike Chantix or the Nicotine patch, however, e-cigs are not FDA-approved as smoking cessation aids.

Marketers of e-cigs appeal to the smoking masses with brands like Njoy, Vapor4Life, and Blu Cigs (which is endorsed by actor Stephen Dorff). Blu Cigs offers flavored versions as well, like Magnificent Menth, Vivid Vanilla, and Pina Colada. Njoy even has a disposable version called One Joy. Despite their popularity, the jury is still out on the safety of e-cigs. But as Joy Fortuna from Pcmag.com writes, “E-cigs may help you decrease your dependence on nicotine…It is conceivable that a self-managed program of nicotine step-down might lead to a drug-free lifestyle.”

As far as bar owner Tim Addison is concerned, he plans to use e-cigs to help him kick his own smoking habit “real soon.”

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