Sorry, big tobacco.
“Smoking” e-cigarettes is infinitely better than smoking the real thing.
I used to be a cigarette smoker.
Now I’m what you might call an early adopter of e-cigarettes. I’ve been “vaping” (“vaping” is short for vaporizing, and is what the kids are calling smoking e-cigarettes these days) for about one year and four months.
This is what I’ve learned.
Feeding the addiction
Make no bones about it, e-cigarettes provide users with a means of feeding an addiction. The delivery method is different than smoking or chewing, but the end result is essentially the same. You’re still after a nicotine fix and puffing away on an e-cig provides it.
Though with an e-cigarette, that fix is provided via inhaled atomized nicotine infused water vapor instead of smoke. If you’re addicted to nicotine and an e-cigarette smoker, not using an e-cig for a period of time results in the same withdrawal symptoms as not smoking a cigarette.
Cost, where to buy, and brands
Some of the most commonly purchased and visible brands of e-cigarettes found in New York City convenience shops and online are Eonsmoke, Logic, Blu (Stephen Dorff endorses, so e-cigs still have a way to go in the coolness factor), and Puf Cigs. They offer a variety of nicotine levels in a variety of flavours like mint, tobacco and watermelon that are meant to cater to light or heavy smokers.
E-cigarettes can be purchased as one time use typically for $10 a pop which is supposed to be good for around 400 to 900 “puffs” and provide the nicotine equivalent to a pack and a half to three packs of cigarettes.
Rechargeable e-cigarettes can also be bought along with refill packs that contain the “juice.” The Logic’s rechargeable e-cigarettes cost $20 and a pack of 5 refils costs the same.
Compare this to the high price of cigarettes in New York City — around $12 a pack — and this seems like a complete bargain. In other cities where the cost of a pack of cigarettes is much lower, it might not seem like such a great deal.
e-Cigarettes are easy enough to find in New York City and just about any corner shop carries them. They can also be found at some RITE AIDS and CVS stores. specialised Vape shops have started popping up, and there is a growing community of hardcore vapers out there into creating their own “juice” (nicotine liquid) and vape delivery systems.
But on a last minute trip to California last year, out of four gas stations and convenience stores that I visited, none had any e-cigarettes. Zero. I ended up buying a pack of Camels. So finding them can be hit or miss, and if you’re trying not to smoke, being put in a situation where you can’t find an e-cigarette is an easy way to relapse back to smoking. That’s what happened to me.
The availability can be an issue depending on where you live.
Fuzzy nicotine maths
Inhaling on an e-cigarette and the resulting buzzy satisfaction can vary greatly depending on the brand used, the nicotine content of the liquid, and the user’s tolerance. My brand of choice as of late has been the Logic rechargeable with refills. On a typical week I’ll go through about 5 refill cartridges of “extra high” nicotine volume, which I suppose would put me at about just over two packs a day if worked out to regular cigarettes.
When I was smoking cigarettes, I would smoke maybe a half pack a day. But I’m not convinced I’m getting more nicotine per day puffing on e-cigarettes than I would if I were smoking cigarettes.
This is because my e-cigarette inhaling habits vary wildly and I suspect the nicotine levels also vary from e-cig to e-cig and refill to refill. It is easy to suck on one of these things all day, like an adult pacifier. It’s also easy to take inconsistent drags, and each brand has a different draw. Also, the lower the battery the harder you have to draw on the e-cig to get a proper hit.
Where you can (and can’t) smoke
You can legally vape just about anywhere, but if you’re planning on vaping in places where regular smoking isn’t allowed, be prepared to feel awkward. It would feel similar to wearing Google Glasses with a little red RECORD light on. People know you’re doing something annoying and possibly invasive, they just don’t know what it is.
Puffing away in a packed movie theatre is awkward. You become the centre of attention for the wrong reasons. Same thing in a restaurant. If you want uncomfortable attention, pull out an e-cigarette start puffing during dinner. After the confused stares, you’ll have to explain to somebody what you’re doing.
At a former employer, one of my colleagues in the newsroom (not me I swear) had quit smoking and taken up e-cigarettes. He tried to discretely puff them in the newsroom. Didn’t last long. Somebody submitted an anonymous complaint saying that it made them feel uncomfortable, so he was forced to go hide somewhere and be banished like a regular smoker.
He later went back to cigarettes.
But walking down the street and knowing that the smoke you’re blowing isn’t actually smoke, but vapor, isn’t going to cause any passersby any risks, or anger them or make you feel like a schmuck, is liberating. There’s no smell, you don’t get nasty looks on the street for vaping an e-cigarette.
The biggest benefit is using an e-cigarette in your own home and not stinking up the house or yourself with real cigarettes. You don’t have to go outside. Your clothes don’t smell. You can sit there and do whatever it is you’re doing while puffing away, no harm no foul. No house fires for smoking in bed. No giving your loved ones cancer from second hand smoke. Quite a good deal.
Prepare to gnaw. There is a tendency to want to just leave an e-cigarette in your mouth instead of using the smoking motion of a regular cigarette. Smelly smoke doesn’t blow in your eyes and face and you can just go to town and suck vapor as much as you want. By the time you’re done with a refill, it can look like it was attacked by small rodents.
After over a year of consistent use I haven’t had any teeth problems even with the gnawing. My teeth are actually whiter and my gums in better shape than when I was smoking.
Speaking of benefits
I can breathe again. My lung capacity has seemed to increase back to a reasonable level for a human. I don’t get out of breath. I don’t smell like grandma’s stale curtains. My contact lenses tend to last longer because smoke isn’t blowing into my eyes. My wife kisses me more because my breath doesn’t smell like smoke. In many ways, e-cigarettes are a revelation.
What isn’t a revelation is the battery life or reliability of the brands commonly found. USB battery chargers bust. The one-time-use e-cigarettes seem to vary as to how many puffs you actually get per use, and there is a very good chance that you can fall off the bandwagon and begin smoking again.
Official FDA research as to the long term health effects of using e-cigarettes is lacking, but that’s likely to change as more people take up vaping.
What there is plenty of, though, is research into the effects of smoking regular cigarettes. As the lesser of two evils, e-cigarettes are the way to go, and that is a belief that will be hard for me to shake unless somebody other than big tobacco is able to come up with a study proving e-cigarettes are as bad for people as cigarettes.
As an alternative to smoking or chewing tobacco, it would be hard for me to not recommend e-cigarettes. As something you should just starting doing for the heck of it? Not so much. The best bet is to just not get started with nicotine in the first place, but for those smokers out there looking for an alternative besides the patch, gum or drugs like Chantix, e-cigarettes are an easy sell.
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