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Electronic cigarettes could save lives — or hook a new generation on nicotine
"Vapers or Smokers?" Is the question Spike Babaian, the owner of VapeNY, an electronic-cigarette store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, asks the stream of new customers who walk through the door. A former gender-and-sexuality professor with a smoker's throaty voice and a spiked black leather collar tight around her neck, Babaian, like most early adopters of electronic cigarettes, is a little eccentric. But the customers in her busy store are all kinds of people—two sisters in their late 50s, a mother with her husband and children in tow, a young Asian woman in a silk blouse and a French freelance journalist in his 30s.
There are roughly 44 million smokers in the U.S., and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 of them has tried electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes appeal to anyone who wants the look and feel of smoking but wants to be able to do it indoors and when they go out with friends—without the stigma, the smell and the yellow teeth. For pack-a-day smokers who switch entirely, the e-cigarette is cheaper. They hope that, without smoke and tar, it is healthier too.