Smoking tobacco is probably one of the worst habits humankind has developed. Originating as a tradition of the Native Americans, practiced mostly on special occasions, smoking has gradually become a kind of mass addiction. Due to the efforts of tobacco companies seeking to increase their sales, people started smoking more and more often; the evolution of a more traditional pipe to a cigarette took some time, but eventually tobacco became more affordable and easier to use (you now simply need to light it up, instead of having to always carry a tobacco pouch, stuff a pipe, puff it, and so on). As a result, deaths and health issues connected to tobacco consumption became a worldwide concern.
A popular belief is that it is nicotine that kills. It is only partially true: although nicotine does harm one’s health (mostly affecting the cardiovascular system), it is the tar, carbon monoxide, hard particles contained in cigarette smoke, and a bunch of toxic emissions and heavy metals that deal the most damage. Nicotine causes addiction, and the smoke does the rest.
Nowadays, there are alternatives to analogue tobacco smoking: the widely popular electronic cigarettes. Although it is hotly debated whether e-cigarettes are harmful to smokers’ health or not, it is hard to argue that substituting cigarettes with these devices does more good than bad, since they possess a number of advantages that cannot be neglected easily. And whereas smoking still remains a dangerous and unacceptable addiction, e-cigarettes might be a decent way to break free of it.
Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine to a smoker not through burning (which obviously implies inhaling harmful and toxic smoke), but through the evaporation of nicotine-containing liquids. An e-cigarette heats up the liquid in a special container called an atomizer; the liquid evaporates, and through this vapor a smoker receives their dose of nicotine. Thus, the process of nicotine consumption in this case should be called “vaping,” not “smoking.” These liquids usually comprise glycerol, propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, propanediol, and some other components (NCBI). Although some of them are not completely harmless, the chemical composure of e-cigarette liquids is definitely safer than the one of a regular cigarette. However, thorough control over the composure of these liquids should be established, and the usage of such components as ethylene glycol and propanediol should probably be banned. Still, if a smoker does not plan to quit, he or she might want to consider using e-cigarettes instead of real tobacco.
Another good reason for a smoker to start using e-cigarettes is that the aforementioned liquids can contain different amounts of nicotine. A heavy smoker might want to start vaping using liquids containing up to 24 milligrams of nicotine, and the good news for them is that it is possible to gradually decrease the dose until zero milligrams are present.
Although some smokers might experience physical symptoms when trying to quit smoking tobacco, in the majority of cases, it is a strong psychological component that does not let a smoker give up their addiction. It can be assumed that there are five main components of this psychological addiction: 1) believing in the relaxing/stimulating effect of nicotine that helps a smoker deal with stressful situations; 2) a smoker’s need to “keep hands busy” when bored, waiting for something, feeling nervous, and so on; 3) socializing with “fellow smokers”; 4) unconsciously and “automatically” following the habit; 5) the fear that if a smoker quits, he or she will lose something valuable, a source of psychological support or pleasure. Besides, some smokers find it aesthetic to inhale/exhale smoke, or have other reasons to continue tobacco consumption. Generally speaking, smoking is a behavioral pattern consisting of repeating situations and reactions. Without neglecting or challenging these reasons, it can be said that an e-cigarette is probably a safer alternative for a person who does not want to give up nicotine. They still deliver nicotine to a smoker’s body (thus fulfilling the reasons 1 and 5); they disrupt automatic smoking described in points 2 and 4 (since e-cigarettes function differently from their traditional analogues); they allow a person to continue socializing with other smokers during breaks at work, or on other occasions, as mentioned in point 3. But, while performing the same functions as regular cigarettes, electronic devices are safer and more socially acceptable.
In addition, a purely aesthetic reason to prefer e-cigarettes over their analogues: when evaporated, the liquids taste and smell better than tobacco. They are sold in a variety of flavors: melons, apples, cherry, tropical fruit, mint, blueberry, and so on. At the same time, regular tobacco smells and tastes awful not only for the non-smokers, but for a smoking person as well. So, why not stop poisoning oneself with toxic smoke, and at least substitute it with pleasantly smelling vapor?
Nicotine addiction in any of its forms, regardless of whether it is smoking or vaping, is a huge problem for addicts. It leads to a number of severe, chronic diseases and even to death. At the same time, there might be a healthier alternative for those smokers who realize the harm they cause to themselves, but who cannot yet give up their addiction. Electronic cigarettes are nowadays considered to be safer than regular cigarettes. Liquids used in these e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic elements, and do not include the products that are commonly burned in cigarettes. Vapor from e-cigarettes is mostly harmless to non-smokers; it tastes and smells better, which makes smoking e-cigarettes a less reproached habit. Finally, many smokers might discover that e-cigarettes do not obstruct their reasons to continue smoking, while making it possible to decrease the amounts of consumed nicotine and to eventually break the habit. Therefore, without praising or advertising e-cigarettes, it can still be stated that they are a more preferable alternative for smokers.
- “Electronic Cigarettes: Overview of Chemical Composition and Exposure Estimation.” NCBI. BioMed Central, 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.