Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why I Will Never Go Back To Smoking

This post is partially informational. For those unfamiliar with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs for short) I thought I would explain how the ones I have used are constructed and how they work as well as introduce you some of the terms involved. For those familiar with e-cigs please bear with me.

I had my first cigarette at age 14. I started smoking regularly at age 15. Thirty-five years later I quit. I did so by switching to an electronic cigarette. Electronic cigarettes work by a battery heating liquid in a tank or cartridge into a vapor which is then inhaled. The liquid is commonly called nicotine juice. Nicotine juice consists of propylene glycol (an ingredient found in inhalers made for those with asthma), vegetable glycerin (found in many foods), food grade flavorings, and nicotine. FDA tests found small quantities of diethylene glycol in some disposable cartridges. If this is so it is probably the only harmful substance besides nicotine contained in some nicotine juices. It has been my experience though that most nicotine juice vendors advertise that their juices do not contain diethylene glycol, and consists only of food grade products.

I started off with a Cig2O brand kit. It consists of a battery and disposable cartridges called cartomizers containing nicotine juice. The cartomizers contain poly-fill which is saturated with nicotine juice and a wick down the center that heats the poly-fill. There is a a silicon cap covering the end of the cartomizer one puts in their mouth and a metal head at the other end that attaches to the battery. It looks like a tobacco cigarette. It even has a LED on the end to look like the cherry of a cigarette. This sort of e-cig is called a cigarette-look-a-like. It has a short battery life staying charged for only three hours with heavy use and taking two and half hours to charge. In Missouri a pack a day smoker would spend almost as much on cartomizers in ten days as they would a carton of cigarettes. It was for that reason I switched to an Evod by Kanger.

An Evod is a tank type e-cig consisting of a battery and a tank called a clearomizer. You fill the tank with nicotine juice which is available from many vendors online and at many local shops. In the clearomizer is a coil containing a wick which is heated to turn the nicotine juice into vapor. The coil is screwed into a head often called an atomizer. The atomizer or head screws off the tank so the tank can be filled with juice. The other end of the head screws onto the battery attaching the clearomizer to the battery. At the other end of the tank is the drip tip or mouthpiece through which one inhales the vapor. The Evod's battery lasts me about six hours and only takes about an hour and a half to charge. Using it is a much more pleasant experience than using a cigarette look-alike. It produces more vapor and has a better taste. You also can get a much wider range of flavors. It is also much cheaper to operate. I spend about $6.50 a week for nicotine juice to fill the clearomizer and about $6 for five coils. A coil lasts me about a month and a half if I clean it, the head, and the tank regularly. My nicotine habit which once costs me about $120 in cartons of cigarettes now only costs me about $48 a month in nicotine juice (which I buy in bulk) and coils (this is including the shipping and handling from ordering online).

Instead of smoking users of e-cigs refer to the action of inhaling nicotine vapor from an e-cig as vaping. The users refer to themselves as vapes or vapers. Vaping for me is a much more pleasant experience than smoking. There really is no comparison between smoking and vaping. To me vaping is like drinking cognac as compared to smoking which is like drinking rot gut whiskey. With smoking your clothes and hair smell of smoke which most find rather unpleasant. Depending on the flavor of nicotine juice the smell left from the vapor does not linger on your clothes or in your hair. While some find the odor of an e-cig unpleasant most find it much more pleasant than smoke from a cigarette. I find it more pleasant than most air fresheners and perfumes I am exposed to. With smoking your clothes are sometimes dirty from cigarette ash, and often you burn your clothes or upholstery.As there is no flame with e-cigs you do not have this. And with smoking your hands and teeth are often nicotine stained. With vaping there are no nicotine stains on your hands, and I have not noticed any on my teeth. Once a former smoker stops smoking and vapes for a while their ability to taste comes back and once this happened for me I found that cigarettes tasted nasty and I found the smell to be repelling. I tried smoking a cigarette a few weeks after not having had one. I thought at first it was just the brand of the cigarette (it was a  Pall-Mall) so a few months later I bummed a Marlboro Red.  While the taste and smell was not as bad, it still was not a pleasant experience. It makes me wonder why I ever started smoking. With an e-cig depending on the flavor of nicotine juice the smell and taste is rather pleasant. While some non-vapers may not like the smell of some flavors most I have talked to say e-cig vapor is more pleasant than smoke.

Then there are the health benefits. After having smoked for 35 years I was beginning to cough of a morning. I would sometimes cough for ten minutes after waking. On top of that my sinuses would give me problems and I would sometimes get a sore throat. If I exerted myself I would become short of breath. I could not run a very long distance without breathing heavily and having my heart pound. After vaping for six months I no longer cough, my sinuses are clear, and I no longer get sore throats. I can now run without getting short of breath or having my heart pound. On top of that I am now avoiding the 69 cancer causing chemicals known to be in tobacco cigarettes along with the 7000 other chemicals in your average cigarette. While I am not going to say the vapor from e-cigs is healthy for you or without risks, and simply using nicotine carries its risks, it is certainly healthier for you than smoking cigarettes.  My guess is that future research will find vaping is little more harmful than using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum.

Many former smokers have used e-cigs to quit using nicotine entirely. That is not my plan, but I understand it can be done quite easily. Nicotine juices come in various strengths with the most common strengths being from highest to lowest 36 mg, 24 mg, 18 mg, 12 mg, 6 mg, and 0 mg. 18 mg nicotine juice is supposed to be the same strength as a full flavor cigarette with the higher strengths being comparable to cigars or some pipe tobacco. By cutting back on the strength of the nicotine juice a vaper is using they are able to wean themselves off nicotine over several months. In this way an e-cig works no differently than a nicotine patch. The main difference is that vaping delivers nicotine in a way that a former smoker is used to. I know several smokers that quit nicotine use entirely switching to e-cigs and gradually reducing the amount of nicotine they were inhaling. And these are people that had tried numerous other methods to quit and not have them work.

One study done by the University of Catania in Italy on using e-cigs to quit using nicotine altogether found that  using low dosage e-cigs (only 7.2 mg) about 13% of smokers can quit nicotine completely using electronic cigarettes. Studies using nicotine patches have found 19% of smokers are able to quit using nicotine entirely using them but then this was using a much higher initial dose of nicotine than that used by the University of Catania's study of electronic cigarettes for quitting. Most studies using nicotine patches start at 14 mg strength which is almost double the strength of the e-cig cartridges used by the University of Catania. I suspect future studies of using electronic cigarettes for nicotine usage cessation will find them as effective if not more effective than nicotine patches. Maybe someday I will decide to quit using nicotine. If I do, I will simply start reducing the strength of the nicotine juice I am using gradually over several months finally using juice with no nicotine in it. Personally, I know more people that have quit using nicotine using e-cigs than I know than have quit using nicotine patches. I am therefore confident that should I decide to quit I can do so using an e-cig and reducing the strength of the nicotine juices I am using.

Electronic cigarettes have their critics. I am not among them. For me e-cigs were a godsend. I had tried nicotine gum, nicotine patches, Zyban, and Chantix to try to quit smoking. E-cigs were the first thing to work. Maybe someday I will decide to wean myself off nicotine. If so I will be able to do so in a way I am accustomed to. I will never go back to smoking unless e-cigs are outright banned or taxed to the point of being unaffordable. I find vaping much more pleasurable than smoking. I no longer strongly smell of smoke. My fingers are no longer nicotine stained. My breath is much more pleasant and my teeth much cleaner. I no longer burn holes in my clothing or the upholstery of my car or furniture. My car is much cleaner too. I used to have ash fall onto the floorboard console beneath the ashtray. I no longer have that. And vaping is much cheaper than smoking. I live in Missouri which is probably the cheapest state in the Union to smoke. Even so I was spending about $30 a week on cigarettes. This as compared to only $12 a week on nicotine juice.On top of all that I can breathe easier and my heart no longer races. No doubt I have probably reduced my chances of developing lung cancer or many other diseases of the lungs. While e-cigs remain largely untested I am convinced they must be safer than cigarettes. They probably do carry risks, but considering your average cigarette contains 7000 chemicals while nicotine juice probably contains less than 50 chemicals I think the risks must be much less. I will never go back to smoking. As I said, unless e-cigs are banned or taxed to the point I cannot afford them I see no reason to go back to smoking.