by Daniel McKague
E-Cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, first came onto the market in 2008 as more of a niche method of quitting smoking and are essentially nebulizers for liquid nicotine combined with flavoring. Initially released in varieties found more commonly in cigars (cognac, whiskey, rum and wine) they soon branched into more ambitious and fruity varieties (raspberry, peach, chocolate, coffee). While they were once mainly for sale online they have recently become more mainstream and can be found in many stores and convenience smoke shops. They are beginning to make their appearance on campus and in bars more and more as the social stigma against smoking in public grows.
Placing the murky issue of their legality with minors aside, this writer feels that the promotion of E-cigarettes as both methods of smoking in areas where smoking is banned and as a manner in which one may ween themselves off of smoking actual tobacco products is casting a fog over the true nature of the issue at the heart of smoking itself: addiction.
Nicotine is so addicting that once that initial puff of a tobacco product is taken, the subject is addicted. In fact, nicotine has been related to heroin in that it is just as addicting in this manner, if not more so. It is so fast acting that before that first cigarette is even finished much of the nicotine from earlier puffs has already run its course. This then leads the smoker to reach for another cigarette, sooner, as cravings dictate and tolerance to nicotine grows. Before they know it, they are a few cigarettes a day, or maybe a half pack, perhaps even a full pack a day smoker. Regardless of if they are a “only smoke when I drink” smoker, or a “I only have five cigarettes a day” smoker, they are still cigarette smokers who are addicted to nicotine.
Smokers will begin to feel withdraw very shortly after finishing their cigarette, feeling restless, irritable, an inability to concentrate and just a general malaise amongst other side effects, and these increase and become worse in the hours following a single cigarette. Given that these apparent side effects peak after about a day before subsiding over a period of several weeks, one can see how easy it is to fall into a repeated cycle of addiction, recovery and re-addiction.
So why then would we offer them direct access to the chemical which addicts them? Whether it’s the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or nicotine inhalers/nebulizers (the family which electronic cigarettes also belong to), the addicting chemical is still present in the delivery of the smoking alternative. Certainly people are not addicted to the tar, benzene, formaldehyde and other numerous carcinogens present in tobacco and tobacco smoke. It is the nicotine that keeps them reaching for cigarettes and craving their nicotine gum. There is no doctoral regulation upon which these methods are offered as a quitting strategy and the discretion of their use is left solely to the user.
Allow the question to be posed this way: how often do we continue to offer heroin to a heroin addict without supervision and hope that they get better?
What electronic cigarettes offer is simply another form of slavery to nicotine, and yes the term slavery is used here because it does feel as such to many smokers, both those trying to quit and those wishing they could quit but are afraid to for fear of the hell that recovery from addiction presents them. They make denying the root causes far more casual with their social acceptance and while one cannot deny the boon of no longer subjecting others to secondhand smoke one has to wonder if it would simply be easier to quit and never smoke again.
(The writer of the article has been a non-smoker for one year and three months now, and feeling as free as he ever could. He recommends reading Alan Carr’s “The Easy Way To Quit Smoking” as the only method needed to end slavery to nicotine.)