NEW YORK —
Critics believe e-cigs may serve as a tobacco gateway for uninitiated young people. "It may be smoking e-cigarettes, but it's still smoking," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who was one of four senators to fire off a scathing letter to NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association after a spoof on e-cigs aired during the Golden Globes in January.
Proponents argue that vaping isn't only safe but is helping people quit smoking. The Henley has a white "wall of doom," where it lists in big black letters the numerous tars and chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes, but absent in e-cig use if one is careful about the liquids purchased.
"What's so beautiful about this product is we can take people from a high level of nicotine down to zero, down to nothing, so they're just vaping basically water and flavoring," said Henley co-owner Talia Eisenberg.
She scoffs at the notion that child-friendly flavors of e-liquids — Watermelon Wave and Frozen Lime Drop, for instance — were created to lure teens. And she rejects the idea that e-cig companies should be banned from advertising on TV, as tobacco companies were more than 40 years ago.
While e-liquids and vaping supplies lack oversight and long-term research, they are readily available to all ages online, and at gas stations, bodegas and many drug stores. But Henley doesn't serve those under 18. Would it make more sense to help people give up nicotine — an addictive substance — altogether?
"Sure, but how's that workin' for the country so far? How are they doin' with that? We're talking in terms of serious harm reduction," said Eisenberg's business partner, Peter Denholtz. His mother died of lung cancer two years ago; he himself smoked cigarettes for 36 years, but has been vaping for four years.