Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Ex-Smoker on E-Cigarettes

I used to smoke up to 6 cigarettes a day. I quit in early ‘09 after trying and failing to quit in ’08.

Smoking is nasty. It’s the leading cause of preventable death in the US—either directly from lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or through the various health risks that increase with the habit, like stroke, heart disease, or some type of cancer. If you’re a woman, smoking makes it harder to get pregnant, and if you happen to be pregnant, your fetus’s healthy development will be impeded. If you’re a man, your swimmers won’t be as potent. [Source: Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking (CDC)]

Source: CDC

Over the past couple of decades, the public health campaigns and policies against smoking (especially indoor smoking) have been effective…perhaps too effective. For now nicotine has shaken free of its complacency and insinuated itself into a new form: the e-cigarette.

The e-cig is a battery-operated nicotine delivery device for people who love the stuff and don’t mind looking like they’re smoking a wafer roll. A crucial difference is the delivery mechanism: instead of burning tobacco and limbo knows what else, e-cigs vaporize a liquid that contains nicotine and additives. So technically the action is not smoking, but rather vaping. More info here.


Manufacturers claim that e-cigs can help people quit smoking, a claim that has caused regulatory bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) to give them some serious side eye. Because if the main substance of cigarettes = nicotine, and e-cigarettes = nicotine, and nicotine = addictive, how exactly are e-cigs helping with quitting?

Alas, we have no super solid evidence for or against the claim, although as per usual, the internet is rife with anecdata, typically from smokers who insist that e-cigs are awesome because they don’t contain the cocktail of death that comprises conventional cigarettes (tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, etc.).

We do know that liquid nicotine is harmful when ingested or absorbed through the skin. Poison centers across the US recorded a 215% increase in calls due to e-cig liquids between September ’10 and February ’14. More than half were for kids under 5, because they will pick up anything and put it in their mouths, including cartridges of apple-flavored nicotine! Yum!

Why won’t anyone think of the children?!?!?!

I’ve had two close encounters with e-cigs indoors. In one instance, I was in line at a McDonald’s at a Connecticut rest stop, and this guy behind me lit up. The person behind him immediately castigated him and he sheepishly walked outside. In the other instance, a group of us were sitting at a table and dude just lit his e-cig. He turned it off after a couple of puffs, though. I think the rest of us kind of went, “Eh,” and moved on with our lives.

Anyway, there’s a kerfuffle because now WHO is advising a ban on indoor vaping. Some people are all, “But it helps with quitting smoking / But it’s not as bad as regular cigarettes / But it cured my baldness!” while others are like, “Eh.”

Bottom line: I don’t trust nicotine. I vote yay on banning e-cigarettes indoors. Outside? Knock yourself out.

This post brought to you by FMLA, which is not a company, as one person thought when I said, “I am going on FMLA,” and he replied, “Good luck working for FMLA.”

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