MONEY health

Vaping Is 95% Healthier and 40% Cheaper Than Smoking

man smoking e-cigarette vaping
Martina Paraninfi—Getty Images/Flickr

The pack-a-day smoker can save around $1,200 per year by vaping.

The CDC and various health organizations don’t want to endorse smoking or nicotine consumption in any form, so it’s understandable that they’ve emphasized first and foremost that e-cigarettes are bad for people.

According to a new study published by Public Health England on Wednesday, however, vaping is actually 95% less harmful than their smouldering counterpart.

The study, which was not funded by the tobacco lobby but rather the U.K.’s Department of Health, also noted that around half of the general public falsely assumed vaporizers and e-cigarettes were as unhealthy as a pack of Lucky’s, and that there’s no evidence vaporizers lead to smoking. In fact, the report suggested e-cigarettes as a useful tool to help people quit smoking.

What the report doesn’t mention is that jumping on the e-cig train could save considerable money compared to traditional smoking. According to NerdWallet, disposable e-cigarettes will mug you an average of $1,387 per year if you’re a pack-a-day smoker—considerably less than the $2,569 equivalent yearly cost of the real thing. While it’s still enough to make a dent in your budget, the savings could be critical for many, since tobacco use is higher among among people at a lower socioeconomic status.

If you really want to get that cost down, you can sacrifice some convenience and buy a reusable vape with liquid refills, getting the cost down to about $500 to $600 per year—an average savings of over $2,000. Well, it could save you that, plus a couple decades on your life.

Of course, smokers would save the most–and enjoy the best health and longest lives–by kicking the habit in all forms.

TIME Cancer

The Connection Between Light Drinking and Cancer: Study

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, red wine, alcohol
Danny Kim for TIME

The latest study shows how much alcohol is linked to a higher risk of developing certain cancers

Researchers say that indulging in as little as one drink a day for women and two drinks daily for men can boost the risk of breast, colon, oral, liver and esophageal cancers. But the risk was higher for men who smoked, even those who had quit, than for non smokers.

Scientists at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital report in the BMJ on a review of nearly 136,000 men and women enrolled in studies that followed their health-related behaviors and outcomes for 30 years. Overall, those who drank more showed a higher risk of alcohol-related cancers, which wasn’t surprising, given that over-indulging can promote abnormal growths in certain organs like the liver.

MORE: 5 Things You Need to Know About Alcohol, Backed By Research

But what was more surprising was that, according to their observations, it didn’t take much. Previous studies have focused on heavy drinking, while the current analysis looked at light to moderate drinking. Among women, up to one drink a day contributed to a 13% higher risk of developing alcohol-related cancers, primarily breast cancer. For men, up to two drinks a day also increased the risk of certain cancers, but only for those who had smoked. Non smoking men didn’t show any higher risk.

The results suggest that smoking may be an important contributor to certain cancers, especially in combination with alcohol. In fact, says Yin Cao, a post doctoral research fellow at the School of Public Health and lead author of the study, it’s enough to consider becoming even stricter when it comes to imbibing. “For men, especially those who ever smoked, they should limit alcohol to even below the recommended limit,” she says. “And smoking and heavy alcohol consumption should be absolutely avoided to prevent cancer.”

 

 

TIME Addiction

Teen E-Cigs Smokers More Likely to Turn to Cigarettes: Study

New research suggests e-cigarette use among young people could be a gateway to conventional smoking

Teenagers who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to report using conventional tobacco products like cigarettes, hookah and cigars, new research suggests.

Researchers looked at 2,530 students from 10 Los Angeles public schools. They asked the teenagers about their smoking and vaping activities and found that teens who had used e-cigarettes were more likely to report using tobacco products over the next year compared to teens who had never used e-cigarettes. The findings were published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

The researchers cannot conclude from their data that using e-cigarettes leads a teen to use other tobacco products. More research is needed to determine if the link is causal. However, they suggest it’s unlikely that the number of teens who use both e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can be entirely attributed to teens already smoking and then trying e-cigarettes later on. “These results raise the possibility that the association between e-cigarette and combustible tobacco use initiation may be bidirectional in early adolescence,” the authors write.

MORE: E-cigs Are the New Cool Thing for Teenagers

Some view e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to tobacco. However, both e-cigarettes and tobacco products contain nicotine, which is addictive, and some research shows that e-cig flavors are dangerous and that the devices, too, produce potentially dangerous byproducts when heated. Since data suggests that teenagers are increasingly using e-cigarettes, some public health experts are worried.

“Adolescents may be especially susceptible to develop nicotine addiction after e-cigarette exposure because their brains are still developing and are particularly sensitive to nicotine,” writes Dr. Nancy A. Rigotti of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in a corresponding editorial.

The researchers also note teens may be more likely to use e-cigarettes before other combustible tobacco products due to a perception that they are not harmful or addictive. The fact that e-cigarettes are sold in different flavors can be attractive to young people, the authors argue, and in some cases it remains easy for teens to get access to them due to a lack of regulation.

 

MONEY Budgeting

I Saved $800 in 6 Months by Quitting Smoking

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Vincentius Christian / EyeEm—Getty Images

Dan Baier, 22, used to smoke 16 cigarettes a day.

It’s not like anyone starts smoking thinking it’s a good financial decision, but it’s amazing how expensive the habit can be. If you’re a smoker, you might be surprised to learn how much money you’ll save if you quit.

Dan Baier, 22, quit smoking in March, and as of the start of August, he had saved about $800 by not buying cigarettes. Quitting wasn’t a financial decision, but it’s been a motivating side-effect, which he continues to track.

“If you asked me if I thought in a 150 days or however I would have smoked 2,500 cigarettes — it’s over that now — or saved $900 by now, I would have said you were crazy,” Baier said. He calculated the figures using an app called QuitNow! (he bought the pro version), but he said he entered a conservative average of 16 cigarettes a day at $6.50 a pack. His actual savings may be greater, he said.

Baier said he didn’t quit on purpose, though he had tried and failed at it a few times, since he started smoking at age 15. He got a cold in March and found himself physically unable to smoke, and by the time the cold cleared, he had already gone through withdrawal. He said he hasn’t smoked since.

About three weeks after quitting, Baier wondered how much he was saving (“I’m an engineering student, so I’m kind of a nerd about this stuff”) by no longer buying cigarettes. He bought packs that cost $7 but usually had a $1 off coupon (“That’s why I bought them”), and he said he paid full price about half the time. Cigarette prices vary by state and city (Baier lives in Michigan), so each smoker’s potential savings could be quite different, when factoring in location and smoking frequency.

As of Aug. 10, when I interviewed him, Baier said he had saved up to $889 and 10 days of time, assuming an average 6-minute break per cigarette. Baier said he has enjoyed following the progress of his savings, which he will continue to track.

Any time you cut a regular expense out of your spending, that money can easily go toward other occasional purchases, but Baier decided to save the money. He and his girlfriend had long wanted to get a nicer bed (they were sleeping on a futon), and that was the obvious choice when he was deciding what to do with the savings.

“It turned into us just putting money away,” Baier said. “Once I hit $600, I went and bought a nice mattress and she went and bought a bed frame.”

Saving money is certainly a nice perk and motivates him to stay away from smoking, but he doesn’t think it would have been enough to trigger a decision to quit. That has a lot more to do with handling the social fallout, he said.

“It’s kind of cool to visualize it (the QuitNow! data), but I feel like it’s kind of a separate thing,” Baier said. “In the end it’s more of like your will power.” As for his advice to others who want to quit, he said: “Remember you can’t even have one.”

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TIME Addiction

Green Tea Cigarettes Are Now a Thing

Package of Billy55 Green Tea Cigarette
Courtesy Billy55 Billy55's regular green tea cigarettes

The manufacturer hopes the 100% green tea, no-nicotine cigarettes can be used to quit smoking

This is This Is Now A Thing, where we check out the science behind new health trends.

The thing: Billy55 is a new company that has created a cigarette made purely of green tea—with no nicotine. While new in America, it’s been commonplace in Vietnam for at least a few decades, which is where acupuncturist and Billy55 founder Ranko Tutulugdzija found it.

As an acupuncturist, Tutulugdzija said he had lots of patients trying to find a natural way to quit smoking, and he remembered seeing green tea cigarettes—rolled green tea leaves with no nicotine in them. The idea? “Get the smoker to have the same sensation as smoking,” Tutulugdzija told TIME. “They don’t feel as guilty and they have more motivation to stop.”

The cigarettes, named after Tutulugdzija’s mother Biljana—referred to as “Billy”—come in regular and menthol varieties and are made out of tea originating from Nanjing and Beijing in China. They cost $2.50 per pack.

The hype: Green tea cigarettes are part of a three-step, 90-day smoking cessation method developed by Tutulugdzija. It’s an “all-natural” program that includes taping five mustard seeds onto acupressure points that Tutulugdzija says can help you quit.

Following the program, Tutulugdzija says, will eventually “downgrade” the addiction to a habit. “Habits are much easier to break than addiction,” he says. “If you smoke green tea, you don’t have a chemical [nicotine] working on your neuroreceptors to cause addiction. There’s a big difference between something with nicotine and something without it.”

The research: The FDA denied TIME’s request for comment, saying it “does not discuss the regulatory status of specific products except with the firms and individuals that are responsible for such products.”

CDC spokesperson Joel London said that while research hasn’t been done into green tea cigarettes specifically, a combination of counseling and medication has been proven to be most effective in kicking a smoking habit to the curb.

Donna Richardson, a clinical social worker and addictions specialist with Rutgers University’s Tobacco Dependence Program, agrees. She said most addictions experts use one of the seven methods approved by the FDA, five of which include nicotine (the gum, patch, lozenges, nasal spray, an inhaler). “It’s the nicotine people smoke for,” she says. “There’s a dopamine release that happens with each puff. So if they’re smoking tea, they’re not getting dopamine, and they’d still be in withdrawal.”

Richardson says the key to quitting smoking doesn’t mean quitting nicotine cold turkey. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Smoking—”no matter if it’s lettuce or tea or rolled-up newspaper”—is the harmful act. That’s because the act of setting something on fire releases carbon monoxide, and breathing that carbon monoxide in, no matter what the source, infiltrates red blood cells, which should be taking in oxygen instead. “Our lungs don’t like polluted air,” she says.

For his part, Tutulugdzija says it has been only two months since his company began testing the efficacy of the product for quitters, but that “we’re getting positive feedback.”

Regarding the healthfulness of his product, Tutulugdzija says, “There’s no such thing as ‘healthy’ smoking.”

The taste: Two social smokers at TIME tried the menthol and plain varieties of green-tea cigarettes, which were harder to light than normal cigarettes. The two testers discerned almost no flavor, but the inhaled smoke did make the testers feel lightheaded. The menthol type was slightly minty, but it, too, lacked any expected, discernible green tea or herbal flavor. Tutulugdzija describes the flavor this way: “They don’t taste like a cigarette, but there’s a green tea scent.”

The bottom line: Dr. Michael Steinberg, who heads the Rutgers Dependence Program, says this: “It’s probably not the safest way to try to quit smoking and there’s no strong scientific evidence it helps to quit.”

Steinberg acknowledges that green tea cigarettes may address a behavioral component that makes quitting smoking challenging, but thinks the oral fixation is better off handled with toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, or something else that doesn’t emit smoke.

Richardson echoes Steinberg’s skepticism. “I wouldn’t have anyone I care about smoking green tea cigarettes to quit,” she said.

Read Next: Fat Water Is Now A Thing

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Correction: An earlier version of this story included a definition of cigarettes misattributed to the FDA. It was included in error and has been removed.

TIME E-Cigarettes

E-Cigarettes May Be Just As Addictive As Cigarettes

e-cigarette-nicotine-vaping-smoking-cigarette
Victor de Schwanber / Getty Images A person "vapes," or smokes an e-cigarette.

The most addictive form of nicotine commonly found in cigarettes is often the same as the one found in cigarettes.

Vapers—or e-cigarette smokers—aren’t any safer from developing addiction, finds a new study released Thursday.

The basis of the pro-vaping argument has been that e-cigarettes don’t contain the harmful chemicals in and byproducts of tobacco cigarettes. There’s nicotine, to be sure, but not all nicotine is the same. Vaping proponents have said that the type found in cigarettes is a highly addictive form, and the type of nicotine in e-cigarettes is less addicting.

“This perception [of e-cigs being safer] stems from the fact that e-cigs are electrically powered devices that heat and vaporize a nicotine-containing flavored liquid to produce an inhalable aerosol, without involving combustion and presumably much of the exposure to combustion-related toxicants,” such as carbon monoxide and nitric oxide, the authors wrote.

But a new study, published in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Research in Toxicology, indicates that nine out of 17 common, commercially available e-cigarettes contained the most addictive kind of nicotine.

Critics have long held that e-cigs contain ingredients that make them essentially a cigarette in terms of addictive power. There is also evidence that e-cigs may not be an effective means to quitting (some research shows that 75% of Americans who vape also smoke).

TIME Addiction

‘Very Light’ Smoking Is Increasing Among Young American Women

young woman smoking
Artem Furman / Getty Images A young woman smoking

But the habit isn't safe, the authors of a new study warn

For a large swath of young American women, light smoking is growing in popularity, according to a new study.

In new research published in Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin were intrigued by other studies that noted a spike in casual smoking in recent years. To find out more about very light smokers, they analyzed a sample of 9,789 women between ages 18 and 25 from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The researchers asked the women if they had smoked part or all of a cigarette in the past 30 days; those who said they had were classified as current smokers, while those who hadn’t, but had smoked previously, were considered “former” smokers.

While heavy smoking—a pack a day—has decreased in the U.S., the researchers found that 27% of all people in the study—and 62% of the current smokers—identified as very light smokers, a habit of five or fewer cigarettes a day. It also can mean skipping smoking some days, then picking up a cigarette every so often. In fact, this kind of casual smoking—what many people often refer to as “only smoking when drunk”—has become predominant, particularly because of its perceived lack of health effects, the study authors note. Many light smokers consider smoking “only once in a while” as not harmful; while they understood smoking to be risky, the authors write, they did not consider the risk as high as non-smokers.

Interestingly, a specific group of women emerged as “light” and “very light” smokers: 18- to 20-year-old single women with some college education.

The research team thinks young women entering adulthood are at particular risk for smoking, perhaps because young adulthood is a time of stress and anxiety and because smoking fewer cigarettes is cheaper than a heavier habit.

But even a very light habit isn’t safe, the authors warn. Research has indicated repeatedly that picking up even one cigarette puts a woman at increased risk for health problems. The fact that the women who are smoking lightly tend to be young and of childbearing age is especially worrisome, they note, since smoking can not only affect conceiving and fertility but can also put women at higher risk for disorders such as cancer of the cervix.

Beyond pregnancy effects, very light smokers are susceptible to the same issues that affect heavier smokers, including depression, psychological distress, and dependence on other controlled substances, the study found. And while the research team did not correlate smoking with binge drinking, they found that heavy and light smokers were similar in their patterns of past alcohol bingeing.

“Social features of college life, including weekend partying, may promote smoking at a very light level among college women,” the authors write. “Emotional distress and multiple substance misuse may serve to both initiate and maintain very light smoking.”

The authors write that anti-smoking campaigns—which tend to focus on heavier smokers—still haven’t yet reduced the “cool” factor associated with taking a drag, even an occasional one.

“Advertising aimed at women attempts to associate smoking with independence, attractiveness, and sophistication,” the study notes. “To meet the challenge of the tobacco industry, smoking intervention programs and policies directed at emerging-adult women need to be based on an understanding of the diverse characteristics…associated with very light smoking in this population.”

TIME Cuba

The Hazy Future for Cuban Cigars

TIME-Cuba-Cover
TIME

When long-forbidden Cuban cigars become more available to Americans, will they maintain their aroma of glamour?

From the new TIME special edition Inside the New Cuba. Pick up your copy in stores today. Digital edition available at TimeSpecials.com

If the opening to Cuba proceeds to its logical conclusion, it’ll be cigars all around. The island’s iconic product, forbidden as imports to the U.S. since 1962 by the economic embargo, long ago moved from sorely missed to the realm of nearly fetishistic obsession. After half a century, the hand-rolled House of Habano puros now appear to contain all that was just out of reach to Americans, as well as the flavor distinct to the soil of Pinar del Río, the southwestern province where the world’s most famous tobacco leaves are grown. The 100 million Cuban cigars sold worldwide count as one of the nation’s leading exports, up there with nickel and cane sugar, a crucial source of hard currency for a government that never figured out the economy.

It’s not just the distinctive taste. A great deal of both history and mystique gets wrapped up in the leaves assembled on the wooden tables where the tabaqueros famously sit in rows, facing the elevated platform where a lector reads a newspaper aloud, to occupy the mind while the fingers fly. A tour of the Partagás factory remains one of the tourist mainstays of Havana—state property since its building, farms and brands were appropriated, along with every other private concern, by a revolutionary government that over time actually managed to enhance the brand. Fidel Castro’s cigar was as much a part of his image as his fatigues, and far less egalitarian. The cigar was a Cohiba, a brand created specially for the upper echelons of the Communist elite (Che Guevara loved them too) before being marketed as a global label in 1982, three years before Fidel quit smoking.

The contradiction—elite taste vs. leveling ideology—never seemed to bother anyone; such was the power of a tradition that goes to the heart of Cuba’s appeal as a culture. The modern hotel where U.S. diplomats first openly met Cuban officials to discuss renewing relations was pleasant enough, but you only knew you were in Cuba within the dark wooden walls of its tobacco shop. Beside the door sits an elegantly groomed older man in a guayabera, Arnaldo Alfonso Ibáñez, rolling them fresh in Cohiba wrappers. He may have to pick up the pace. Under the new regulations published by the Obama administration, U.S. citizens can bring back up to $100 of tobacco (or alcohol) products. Should Congress vote to lift the embargo outright, Habanos, a 50-50 partnership of the Cuban state and a British firm, estimates that its sales would jump 70%.

And what would be lost? A certain cachet. Some memories. I learned to smoke on Cubans, two boxes I carried back to Washington from a visit to Havana in the late 1990s. It was good to start small—the Romeo y Julieta “Cedros”—and in the open air, to build up tolerance before moving on to the second box, Cohiba “Lanceros” so obviously counterfeit that the customs agent at the Dallas airport (“we just had a class on cigars”) handed them back to me, shaking his head. By the time I moved abroad, Havanas were about all you could buy in the duty-free humidors of the airports a foreign correspondent knows better than his own bed. I once expensed a box of Bolivar Gigantes after handing them out to help battle the stench on a Ugandan hilltop that produced not one but two mass graves; the accounting department put it through.

They also made great gifts, though it was a mistake not to tell a friend about the handful I’d tucked into his knapsack before driving him to the airport for his flight back to Los Angeles. A customs agent found them first and “cut them up there in front of me,” he reported later, not happy. He was a freelancer who wrote profiles for Cigar Aficionado, usually celebrities, some of whom would stay in touch after publication, calling him up when they got their hands on some Cubans. “The people who want ’em are getting them,” says Bill Sherman, grandson of the New York tobacconist who took in the owner of Partagás after he was driven out of Cuba. The Nat Sherman Townhouse sells its own brand, but a cabinet of 400 pre-embargo Partagás has pride of place in the members’ vault on 42nd Street in Manhattan, perhaps the largest stock in the U.S. of pre-Revolutionary cigars, a level of exclusivity that approaches either the effervescent or the ridiculous, depending. But there’s a reason for its following.

“What makes a Bordeaux from Bordeaux special?” Sherman asks. “You can’t take a Bordeaux seed and plant it in Napa Valley and get the same wine. It’s the soil, the sun, the climate.” Still, over the years, California has managed some superior varietals of its own, as drinkers grew more sophisticated and learned to trust their own tastes. Something like that may happen if Cubans hit the States.

“I gotta tell you, as a retailer, I’m ecstatic. We’ll be selling them,” Sherman says. But without the mystique of the forbidden, Cubans will have to earn their place in the pantheon. “You go to Spain,” he notes, “and Cuban cigars are less expensive than Domincans.”

From the new TIME special edition Inside the New Cuba. Pick up your copy in stores today. Digital edition available at TimeSpecials.com

TIME White House

Why It Matters if Obama Smokes (and Why It Doesn’t)

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference after meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders and delegations at Camp David in Maryland.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference after meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders and delegations at Camp David in Maryland.

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has aced three physicals. He regularly exercises, especially playing basketball, and has a personal chef — not to mention wife — who ensure he eats healthy.

But he has one (potential) vice that keeps coming back up: smoking.

A photo posted on Instagram by a spokesman for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi buzzed around the Internet this week because it appeared to show President Obama on an outdoor balcony at the G-7 summit holding what might be a pack of cigarettes. (Or might not.)

Talking #elmau #g7 #cosedilavoro #germania

A photo posted by Nomfup (@nomfup) on

The general public doesn’t care much. A 2009 poll by CNN found that most Americans’ views of the President aren’t affected by his struggle to quit smoking and only a third wanted to see him give up cigarettes completely.

The White House has typically responded by implying the President is free from his addiction.

Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in December 2010 the President hadn’t smoked in “about nine months.” In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama said the President hadn’t smoked in “almost a year,” saying his daughters had inspired him to kick the habit for good. After his 2014 physical, Obama’s personal physician said he “remains tobacco free.”

In a press briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the object in Obama’s hands was not a pack of cigarettes. “It’s not,” he said, simply.

Obama clearly still struggles with his former habit, acknowledging that he chews Nicorette gum to quell his desire to smoke. But his previous statements that he’s given up cigarettes entirely raise questions when a photo like this surfaces. And when the White House avoids questions posed by TIME and other outlets about the President’s smoking habits, it allows rumors like this to fester.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that much. As a Washington Post writer noted, Obama has “the best health care and the lousiest gig in the world,” so if he chooses to light up from time to time, he’ll probably be just fine.

TIME risk

Now You Can Find Out When You Are Likely to Die With a Simple Online Test

The test is based on data from the U.K. and aimed at people between the ages of 40 and 70

Are you going to die within the next five years? A new online questionnaire may be able to tell you.

Ubble, the U.K. longevity explorer, uses data from the U.K. Biobank to determine a set of 655 measures and risk factors that can affect the odds of premature death, the Guardian reports. The website contains a series of 11 to 13 questions that will produce the odds of death within the next five years for men and women between the ages of 40 to 70.

Andrea Ganna, one of the scientists behind the project, explained the findings to the Guardian: “We hope that our score might eventually enable doctors to quickly and easily identify their highest risk patients, although more research will be needed to determine whether it can be used in this way in a clinical setting,” he said. “Of course, the score has a degree of uncertainty and shouldn’t be seen as a deterministic prediction. For most people, a high risk of dying in the next five years can be reduced by increased physical activity, smoking cessation, and a healthy diet.”

Read next: 15 Eating Habits That Make You Live Longer

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