I’m not a smoker, and I’ve never been addicted to nicotine. But as I write this, I am taking a drag off a chocolate and mint-flavored e-cigarette. It was given to me as a gift by a friend this past weekend. It’s apparently a low-dose liquid, as they come in various nicotine levels, helpful for weaning yourself off the drug slowly. In my case, however, it appears to be helpful for starting.
A recent study published in The Lancet showed that e-cigarettes may help you quit smoking with around the same level of efficiency as gum or the patch. But what about getting off the e-cigarettes themselves?
Personally, I would never pull out a match and light up a cigarette, even if a full pack were sitting right in front of me on the table. However, this attractive little contraption looks like a fountain pen and tastes like dessert. It doesn’t need to be lit or put out in an ashtray. It just sits quietly on the table, waiting for me to press a button and take a drag. It’s easy. Too easy.
My boyfriend Marcus was a heavy pack-a-day smoker, but has now turned his attention to e-cigs. Once a week, Marcus heads to the e-Cigarette storefront in Hoboken and spends a good hour, quote, “geeking out” with the guy who works behind the counter.
e-Cig smokers are collectively known as “vapers,” not to be confused with what they smoke, which is “vapor” or what they smoke out of, which is a vaporizer. The act of smoking an e-Cig is known as “vaping.” You will often find e-Cig enthusiasts online on chat forums, discussing how to mix their own blends and which brand of liquid (aka “juice”) gives off the best smoke.
To play on an old joke: “How will you know if someone is an e-cigarette smoker? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”
The “juice” blends come in two varieties, using either Vegetable Glycerine or Propylene Glycol (respectively known as VG or PG). Some people can have an allergic reaction to PG, but the VG tends to be too thick and doesn’t hold flavor as well. Usually, the liquids are a mix of both PG and VG. And, of course, they come in every flavor known to man.
Studies on the safety of e-Cigarettes often have contradicting conclusions. The jury is still out on safety, but one thing is certain: you aren’t inhaling tar, tobacco and other additives. You are, however, still inhaling addictive nicotine. It’s also not entirely regulated, which means you could purchase liquid online that comes from China or other areas with spurious records on consumer safety.
The FDA has this to say on the subject: “As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing… whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use.”
In a July 2013 interview with CBS This Morning, Craig Weiss (the CEO of eCig manufacturer, NJOY) said he is on a mission to “obsolete cigarettes.” In fact, he actually wants e-cigs to be “better than cigarettes.” In other words, these aren’t being marketed as a tool for quitting, but are being marketed as a replacement, the future of smoking.
If you want to quit completely, the ability to control the amount of nicotine you take into your body by using eCigs could be very helpful. But if you like them too much, it is also possible you could be trading one addiction for another.
Need help quitting? Read Vitals’ Smoking Cessation Patient Guide.