People have been intentionally inhaling smoke into their lungs for thousands of years, but it is only in the last hundred or so that we’ve come to realize the health risks involved. But try as we might, the addictive quality of nicotine, the social aspect of smoking, and the pleasant feelings in the mind and body it elicits still keep us puffing away, even when we know it’s not good for us.
There are some 20 known carcinogens in tobacco smoke, but there are two misconceptions that have stood in the way of real attempts to quit smoking. First, contrary to popular belief, the nicotine itself contained in cigarettes does not cause cancer. Rather, it’s the tar, and the toxic gases and particulates contained in the smoke that causes harm.
That’s not to say that nicotine is a healthy ingredient – it may not cause cancer directly, but nicotine is the addictive component that keeps people puffing. That’s why one of the most common methods of quitting smoking is nicotine replacement therapy – applying a patch or chewing nicotine gum eases the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, without ingesting the harmful smoke.
The second major misconception is that “vaping” is the same as smoking. Whereas a combustible cigarette ignites the tobacco and creates dangerous smoke which is inhaled, a vaporizer heats up and vaporizes a liquid or a dry ingredient, so it is inhaled as a vapor rather than smoke. As a result, vaping is often seen as an effective smoking cessation tool.
The American Cancer Society agrees, and in their most recent position paper on electronic cigarettes, the ACS says, “Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the health effects of long-term use are not known.”
An even more telling passage in the position paper is the ACS’s acknowledgement that smokers who are attempting to quit often do not rely on a clinician. And while the ACS recommends the use of FDA-approved cessation devices, they acknowledge that some will use e-cigarettes as a cessation aid.
The agency says, “Some smokers, despite firm clinician advice, will not attempt to quit smoking cigarettes and will not use FDA-approved cessation medications. These individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.”
While the ACS justifiably says that all forms of tobacco should be avoided, taking a position that e-cigarettes are preferable to combustible cigarettes represents new thought leadership in this area, and presents smokers who wish to quit with a valid option, and smokers who do not wish to quit with a safer product.
The ACS position clarifies much of the confusion around vaping, and earlier anti-vaping messages broadcast on television and radio. According to a recent blog on this issue from Vapor Authority, one of the largest online vendors of vaping products, “Yet despite these attacks – which are largely rooted in exploitational distortions of scientific evidence – the ACS asserts that vaporizers facilitate the pathway to a combustible-tobacco free society.”
The question remains, if you want to quit smoking, why not just chew nicotine gum? The answer is simple – it just doesn’t work for a lot of people. The fact is, people smoke not just because they’re physically addicted to the nicotine, they smoke because they enjoy the social aspect of it and the psychological sense of the hand-to-mouth action that is not present in nicotine gum or nicotine patch solutions.
Put simply, smokers still want to bring something up to their lips and inhale. Vaping is the only device that offers a pathway to smoking cessation while still addressing both the problem of nicotine withdrawal, and the psychological desires involved with smoking.
And further, because the vaporizer liquids are available in different strengths – including zero-strength liquids with no nicotine at all – it becomes possible for smokers to move to a lower strength over time while still enjoying the social and psychological aspects of vaping.
There is very little psychological satisfaction involved in placing a patch on one’s arm, and that is precisely why those types of nicotine replacement therapies often fail. Vaping carries the dual advantages of being less harmful, while still delivering that psychological benefit that smokers crave.